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Portage Health grant brings Project Lifesaver to the area

Houghton County Lieutenant Detective Charlie Klein’s hard work begins paying off this week.

Following the search for Cam Besonen in April in Ontonagon County, something the sheriff there says were the worst days of his professional career, Klein began investigating options that could reduce the time it takes to find missing people. Besonen was located only a mile from his home, but it was too late. He had died before rescue parties came across him.

In steps Project Lifesaver International, using radio frequency technology and a band that attaches at the wrist of a cognitively impaired person. Klein says that when time is the difference between a good and bad outcome, Lifesaver works wonders.

Average rescue time using Project Lifesaver is 30 minutes, compared to several days that it took back in April.

A Portage Health Foundation grant will allow Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Departments, plus Superior Search and Rescue to adopt the technology. Training begins this week. The award will fund start up costs and pay for the first 50 families who enroll loved ones.

While the upfront amounts are high, the cost of a prolonged search is enough to tax the budget of a rural county, says Ontonagon Sheriff Dale Rantala.

There were 2,474 manhours used at a cost of $185,557 [during the Besonen search].

Once the wristband is attached to a person, it can only be taken off with a pair of scissors. Batteries need to be replaced roughly every two months, completed by sheriff personnel. Late next month is the goal for initial rollout. You can learn more here.

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