By Elaine Rackley
Hannah Crissey's parents say they will sleep a lot easier now that she has become Henry County's first wearer of a Project Lifesaver bracelet.
The 13-year-old is severely autistic, and is considered a " flight risk," said her dad, Dale Crissey. This week, she was the first person fitted with the Project Lifesaver bracelet, in Henry County, according to Maj. Jason Bolton, of the Henry County Police Department.
The bracelet will enable police to quickly track her whereabouts, regardless of where she goes, said Bolton.
"Six months ago, one night she got out at home," said her mother, Carla Crissey. " It was around midnight, it was cold and raining. She found the keys and escaped out of the house."
Her parents called the Henry County Police Department, who had six officers searching for her, and they located the girl about 45 minutes later, near her home.
This week, her mother said she felt "relief," as she watched the Lifesaver bracelet being placed on her daughter's wrist, Thursday, by Henry County Police Officer Andrew Craig. He has been selected to supervise the Lifesaver program.
"There is nothing like losing a child, it's scary. When she is gone, you're in a panic, you really feel helpless," said Carla Crissey. "As a mom, I'm hoping she is safe. Now I know when the police come, they can find her quickly."
The new Lifesaver bracelet, complete with a transmitter, cuts down on time and manpower involved in search cases, said Bolton. The bracelets are for families in the county to ensure the "safe and quick return of their loved ones, if they wonder off," explained Bolton.
On Wednesday, 24 officers were needed to search for a missing person in the Heron Bay area, noted Henry County Police Deputy Chief Stoney Mathis.
The program involving the specialized bracelets has the backing of Henry County Board of Commissioners Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, her fellow commissioners, and the Henry County Police Department.
"This is a program we have been long anticipating," said Commission Chairman Mathis.
Deputy Chief Mathis (no relation) thanked the police chaplain program, whose members represent Glen Haven Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, McDonough Christian Church, and McDonough Presbyterian Church, for providing the $5,000 necessary to start the program.
Project Lifesaver originated in Virginia, in 1999, and has had successful programs in more than 40 states. It employs a comprehensive, rapid-response support system, integrating the most reliable locator equipment available with specially trained search-and-rescue teams.
Henry Police partnered with Project Lifesaver in order to offer a peace-of-mind service to Henry County families with members suffering developmental (Autism, Down's syndrome) or dementia-type (Alzheimer's) disorders, according to county officials.
When the police department receives a missing-persons call, usually it activates the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team, helicopters from other agencies and other police officers to search for the person. It results in a great deal of manpower and money, said Sgt. Jason Duffey.
The program serves to spare communities valuable, public-safety financial and manpower resources in the search-and-rescue efforts made on behalf of participating families. "It saves the county a lot of money," Duffey said.
"We use a Omni antenna, which is placed on top of the patrol car," he said. "The higher the pitch, let's us know we are close to the person."
"We can track the person's transmitter on their wrist, with a Yagi antenna," said Officer Craig, "It gives us the direction of where the frequency is coming from."
With more than 1,400 rescues, nationwide, the average elapsed time to locate a missing person is under 30 minutes, according to county officials.
To participate in the Lifesaver program, families must pay a one-time, start-up fee of $300 the first year. Afterward, the cost is $10 per month.
For more information about Project Lifesaver, contact Officer Andy Craig, or visit www.projectlifesaver.org.