Last Sunday, when a teen with Down syndrome went missing in the West Brook area near Parrsboro, Gooding, a team leader of the Springhill Ground Search and Rescue, arrived on the scene and was quick to get a signal from the bracelet the 18-year-old was wearing on his wrist.
“This was the first time I used Project Lifesaver in an emergency situation and can’t believe how quickly things wrapped up,” said Gooding, who is also a reporter with the Amherst News-Citizen-Record. “It was maybe 20 minutes from time I arrived on the scene to making visual contact with the client."
Project Lifesaver was first established in April 1999 in Virginia and came to Nova Scotia in 2010. It uses a radio direction finding system to determine the location of a transmitter based on the strength of the radio frequency it produces.
It was the second search in less than 24 hours for the Springhill ground search and rescue team following a successful search in the Shulee area overnight Saturday.
For Gooding and other team members having the Project Lifesaver technology really made a huge difference.
I have been on some real heartbreaking searches over the years, and this really balances the scales some for me,” he said. “I was pretty choked up to find the client as quickly as we did and to find him healthy, uninjured and ready to go home.”
Mike MacPherson, president of Springhill Ground Search and Rescue, said Project Lifesaver helped prevent some of the guessing game that normally goes into a search for a missing person
“It wasn’t very long that Chris had a signal and not much longer after that that he had eyes on him,” MacPherson said. “In most cases we have to make an educated guess about where the missing person is and then begin searching. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. When you get into a situation where you find someone it’s a very rewarding feeling to say the least.”
MacPherson said it was his organization’s first search with Project Lifesaver.
Project Lifesaver Nova Scotia administrator Gary Smith said the successful search in West Brook is the reward for lots of hard work to bring the program to the province and raise public awareness.
“It’s great when you’re able to cut time from hours to minutes,” Smith said. “Chris and his group were out walking half the night in the search Saturday night and then you have this search that was wrapped up really quickly because of this technology.”
He said searches using Project Lifesaver generally take between 17 and 30 minutes.
Smith said there is a fee for the Project Lifesaver device, but there is support to buy them from Community Services and from service clubs like the Lions Club. There are also responsibilities for the caregivers, such as checking the device every 24 hours.
He was also happy to have members of the Parrsboro Fire Department to help him with the client. It’s one thing to talk about how effective Project Lifesaver is, but to have an outside agency assist and see for themselves the equipment in action helps get the word out about the technology.