Acquisition International - Global Excellence Awards 2018 141 Acquisition International - Issue 8 2018 31 The Rewards & Satisfaction of a Lifetime of Public Service likelihood of an eloped individual being located without significant injury decreases by 50% - time is of even greater importance in the instance of a missing individual with autism, as many of these individuals have an attraction to and fascination with water; coupled with their inability to detect danger, many children on the autism spectrum who wander will likely head straight to a nearby body of water. Statistics indicate that drowning is the leading cause of autism-related wandering deaths Project Lifesaver, now the gold standard in the field, was the first organization to significantly address the elopement issue among at-risk individuals, as well as the first to apply locating technology for the search and rescue of these individuals. Our clear and singular focus is on providing one of society’s most vulnerable groups and their caregivers the support, protection, and peace of mind they need while delivering the tools and training to public safety agencies that are responding to incidents of elopement. The method relies on proven radio technology and specially trained search and rescue teams. Individuals enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small personal transmitter around the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local authorities who will dispatch a certified emergency response team to the client’s last known location and activate a search with specialized equipment that can triangulate the position of the client’s frequency, allowing the team to quickly locate the client and return them home safely. In comparison to a search utilizing standard operations, which can take hours, possibly days, Project Lifesaver has reduced search times drastically – achieving an average recovery time of only 30 minutes, which is 95% less time than standard operations. Now in nearly 1,600 public safety agencies internationally, Project Lifesaver has been credited with the successful recovery of nearly 3,500 eloped individuals since its founding in 1999. Boasting a 100% success rate, Project Lifesaver continues to achieve its mission of “bringing loved ones home!” What makes our approach unique is that Project Lifesaver is more than just wearable locating technology, it is a program. We have created an entire training and certification protocol targeted at public safety agencies that includes not only search and rescue techniques and the use of our equipment, but also educational programs that provide these officers with critical insight into the disorders they will be working with, including the latest health information related to these conditions and how best to approach and communicate with these individuals. Engaging these professionals in such topics will help them build relationships with and gain the trust of their clients and other special needs community members, enabling them to more effectively interact with these individuals, and in the case of elopement provide them with the ability to put their clients at ease when returning them home. This training also allows these first responders to be more susceptible to understanding behaviors in the field, and help them identify, assess, and manage interactions with special needs individuals throughout regular duties. Because of our extensive experience in this area of expertise, Project Lifesaver has provided valuable insight and information in the development of policy and sound practices for the search, rescue, and safe recovery of at-risk wanderers. We help in the development of materials and training programs to provide the necessary education to doctors, school administrators, first responders/search personnel, and of course, the families with loved ones at risk. In fact, Project Lifesaver is a subject matter expert and advisor on the wandering issue for: Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s disease (LEAD), National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Alzheimer’s Foundation, and the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). The Project Lifesaver’s training program is recognized and approved by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and National Preparedness Institute of Indian River State College. Most importantly though, the Project Lifesaver program has provided a means of protection and an additional layer of security for these individuals should they wander, as well as tremendous peace of mind for their families. No matter how watchful and diligent a caregiver is, their loved one is still likely to display this life-threatening behavior, and I am proud to provide an option to keep them safe. Establishing this program and growing it to the size and notoriety that it is today has not always been an easy road, but this by far has been one of the most rewarding acts I have done in my life. Project Lifesaver has far exceeded my expectations, especially given that this program was never something I sought after to achieve. I simply wanted to serve and protect, and in that, I found a match of inspiration waiting to be lit that would soon ignite the fire that would forever change the search and rescue industry. Achieving this success was certainly not single- handed, though, and while it was attained under my leadership, I have had an incredible staff that played a critical role in the organization’s continued success. Every single employee has a passion for the populations we serve and a stake in the organization’s success; each providing ideas, strengths, and direction to ensure the continuity of the organization and this life-saving program. We are a mission-driven team and operate in a way that puts collective goals ahead of individual glory. We succeed because we are a small but nimble organization that rises to any challenge we face. Everyone at Project Lifesaver is smart, energetic, and fun to work with. We love what we do, and it shows in the strong relationships we have built with our clients, member agencies, and strategic partners. Project Lifesaver is more than just a job; it is a way of life because at the end of the day there is more at stake than a paycheck. We work each day to safeguard lives, and together, we have made a difference. The accomplishments of this organization continue to amaze me each and every day, and I hope that we can continue on this path of greatness, and one day be able to provide this program free of cost to everyone in need; extinguishing the fatalities and injuries caused by special needs elopement. * Gene Saunders is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Project Lifesaver International. He is a military veteran and a retired law enforcement Captain. During the past 19 years, following his retirement, he has dedicated his life to safety and protection of at-risk individuals with cognitive conditions who are prone to wandering.