Oliver Jack, a 5-year-old autistic boy, loved to play in the water and enjoyed wading. Unfortunately, the boy wandered into shallow waters and drowned in a pond located near his home. Authorities say the young boy had been missing for 5 to 6 hours before divers could find his body.
Sebastian, an 8-year-old child, was diagnosed with autism and enjoyed hugging anyone he met. The child drowned in a pond near his relative’s house and lost his life.
Kim Seuss says, “My heart pains every time I hear stories about young autistic children losing their lives, despite the best possible measures parents take to help them.”
She further adds, “However, children at times look for ways to escape their safe-home environments, resulting in unintended causalities.”
Kim recalls she used to be concerned about her autistic son Derik, who could have ended up like others if left unmonitored. She says, “Despite equipping the house with multiple alarms and locks, Derik managed to escape quite a few times.”
The mother says her son, now aged 21, was a great runner during his younger days.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that results in impairment of an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, resulting in hampered interactive abilities. It further restricts a person’s interests and other activities resulting in increased repetitive behaviors.
More often than not, autistic individuals are seen to be drawn to water.
Kim says that she along with her husband made a decision to have their son enrolled when he was 10 years old in a project code named Project Lifesaver. The device made effective use of embedded transmitters with armbands that are woven carefully in order to stop young people with disabilities from wandering without the knowledge of their caretakers.
As a young child, Derik, who had mastered his skills in swimming, would manage to successfully escape from his home and start wading across small creeks and hiding in the woods. Further, Kim says the child used to enjoy looking at golfers at a nearby golf course.
At times, he would wander to the railroad tracks, since he loved watching trains zoom past him.
Kim says, “We used to locate him most of the time. However, sometimes we had to take assistance from 911.”
She recalls an occasion when authorities had deployed a helicopter to find him, and the child had wandered around 2 miles from his home.
Kim remembers, “During the time, there was a heavy snowfall. When I heard the thud sound of the door, I ran downstairs and observed my child’s footprints headed towards the north side of the creek.”
The mother further remembers, “I ran straight down the golf course way, screaming aloud. Despite my relentless search in the chilling weather, my son was nowhere to be seen.”
Rescuers had to be roped in, and after extensive search, they found him in another neighborhood.
However, with project lifesaver being in place, when an individual is noted to be missing, the team of first responders makes use of radio-based technologies to find the location of the person. The township fire departments have teamed up with suburban fire departments to successfully reduce causalities.
Many wonder how the team is successful in locating kids with utmost accuracy. The ‘Project Lifesaver’ requires its team members to have their bracelets on them in their assigned coverage areas.
Further, the team makes it mandatory to have their rescuers understand each and every enrolled individual’s personality, which assists them in carrying out the operation with ease.
Molly Fugate, a firefighter, says, “Everyone is given a goal to find our client within a span of 30 minutes.”
Many fire departments have successfully collaborated with Project Lifesaver since early 2012.
Decatur, in central Indiana, offers the bands as well as lifesaving services at no additional cost. However, the residents opting for these services need to purchase the device by paying a fee.
Damar Services, an agency serving people with developmental disabilities and behavioral complexities, has been working tirelessly in a bid to raise awareness of the underlying needs.
Kristin McCoy, director of Damar Services, says “Parents and caretakers go to great lengths by locking doors and installing alarms. Yet they worry about the safety of their children and have sleepless nights.”
Have you had an experience in dealing with a device similar to Project Lifesaver? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.