Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department

A West Lafayette resident was found in less than an hour recently because of a search-and-rescue program organized by the Tippecanoe County sheriff's office.

Project Lifesaver is meant to help individuals prone to wandering due to a cognitive disorder, according to Project Lifesaver's website. A bracelet with a tracking device is worn by the individual, which allows participating departments to track them if necessary. Tippecanoe County has been participating in the project since 2009.

The man in this incident, who has dementia, left his home about 1:50 a.m. May 28 and triggered a residential alarm in the process, according to a news release. West Lafayette police officers responded to the alarm and found the person missing.

Sgt. Andy Cree of the sheriff's department works with the project and said the alarm is infrequent because caregivers keep a close eye on the people they look after.

In this case, officers then contacted the sheriff's office, which manages the program. WLPD, the sheriff's department and the Tippecanoe County Emergency Management Agency responded.

At 2:40 a.m., the man was found about half a mile from the residence in a heavily wooded area. He was unharmed and returned to his family.

"It took 11 minutes to find him," Cree said.

Jacob Shupe, deputy in the sheriff's department, was a part of the team that responded to the call. He said the process starts with a 911 call. The caller gives the name to a dispatcher, who checks the name in internal records and sees the missing person is a part of Project Lifesaver.

The dispatcher then alerts the sheriff's department and other first responders so they can get the equipment necessary out to the site. The transponder is then tuned to the bracelet's individual signal. After being checked out by a medic, the participant is then reunited with their family.

"We try to have three teams looking to triangulate the signal, but I immediately got a strong signal," Shupe said.

The Project Lifesaver website keeps track of all rescues, and there have been 3,786 so far. When Cree began working with the project, the training reported the average time between initial call to police and reunion was about an hour.

Tippecanoe County has about 35 participants, Cree said. More information on how to sign up a loved one can be found on the county website.

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