“Project Lifesaver”
By Ralph Froehlich
Union County Sheriff


Recently, I met with Morris County Sheriff Edward Rochford and several people from autism support groups to discuss an important program called “Project Lifesaver” and I would like to remind the public of this unique rescue service.

Under “Project Lifesaver,” individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s disease or other debilitating disorders are outfitted with a watch-sized transmitter that can be tracked by the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit if the individual is reported missing or lost.

Sheriff Rochford and I began working on a program a few years ago with the wonderful idea of using this technology to its fullest in the event an at-risk person was reported missing and we launched our “Project Lifesaver” programs. Since then, the program has spread throughout the state and now New Jersey is the only state in the nation with complete coverage for the program in every county. Whether you are at home in Union County or vacationing at the Shore, “Project Lifesaver” has the individual covered.

The lightweight, battery-operated transmitters used through “Project Lifesaver” can be tracked for up to several miles, with densely developed urban areas cutting back on the range. Each device has a unique radio signal that broadcasts 24 hours a day.

An important part of the program is that participating families provide detailed information about the victim, from previous addresses to a daily log of what the individual is wearing.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office has been working with the County’s Division on Aging and outside groups to identify families that can benefit from this program. Now we hope to involve more groups that focus on autism and Alzheimer’s disease so we can expand enrollment in the “Project Lifesaver” program.

If there is an individual or a group you know who could possibly help with or benefit from this excellent program, please tell them about “Project Lifesaver.”

The wristband transmitters cost about $285 each, plus about $15 monthly for batteries and maintenance. There is a movement in the State Legislature to have programs such as “Project Lifesaver” covered by health insurance. Also, civic groups often step forward and cover the cost of the program.

A transmitter worn by an Elizabeth man almost four years ago helped Sheriff’s Officers using the “Project Lifesaver” program to rescue him within two hours of the 74-year-old man’s disappearance. The transmitter the man wore was paid for by PBA Local 108 and FOP Lodge 103, the unions representing Union County Sheriff’s Officers.

Community groups and civic organizations are being asked to sponsor grants for families who cannot afford to pay for the transmitters.

As we mark April as Autism Awareness Month, I urge families interested in the program, as well as potential sponsors, to call the Sheriff’s Office at (908) 527-4450.