Search and Rescue

10/21/2013

Of course, when it comes to assets, there is nothing more priceless than life. Personal tracking devices are increasingly being used as a way for parents to protect children with special needs like autism as well as for loved ones who want to make sure aging relatives are safe.

Project Lifesaver Intl., www.projectlifesaver.org, a non-profit organization located in Port St. Lucie, Fla., has used RF technology to rescue more than 2,600 children and adults that have been gone missing. The system uses a non-removable wristband that looks similar to a watch, and the device gives off a signal 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Similar to a system used in cars, if a child or adult wearing the bracelet goes missing, officials use a radio receiver to tune into the frequency of the miniature radio transmitter located inside the bracelet. Once the team locates the signal, it vectors in to the point of rescue. Founded by retired police officer Gene Saunders, the 13-year-old organization claims a zero failure rate and says its searches have never resulted in serious injuries or fatalities.

Globalstar, www.globalstar.com, also offers a personal tracking device. However, instead of using it to keep a loved one safe, individuals are using the device to protect themselves from potentially dangerous situations. Called SPOT, the satellite device is often used by extreme sport enthusiasts such as rock climbers, hikers, and offshore fisherman who want to ensure a return trip home. “It is a very inexpensive way back to have a link back to civilization so you can send messages, either letting your family know you are okay or maybe that you need assistance,” says Barbee Ponder, general console at Globalstar.


Each SPOT device includes an onboard GPS chip that determines the user’s GPS location and then sends location information and preselected messages to communication satellites. Using what is called bent-arm satellite technology, the system can operate off the grid, where there is no cellular service. Preprogrammed buttons allow users to inform family members that they are okay, that they need help, or that there is an emergency. Users can even purchase a monthly rescue service plan, which includes $100,000 in rescue coverage.

According to the company, the system has worldwide coverage and can report GPS location with an accuracy of 20-to-25 feet. “It takes the search out of search and rescue,” says Ponder. “All you have to do is push the SOS button, and you are immediately telling emergency response exactly where you are and that you need to be rescued.”

Since it was introduced in 2007, SPOT has been used to initiate 2,200 rescues in 79 countries and at sea. In its first rescue mission, Ponder says the system rescued a stranded kayaker in Tasmania. Earlier this year, it recovered a 39-year-old hiker who ventured off-route in an effort to save his dog. Just a few months ago, it saved a father who was separated from his two teen sons during a hunting trip.

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