BCSO to join Project Lifesaver

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It’s been nearly a month since an eight-day search for a 77-year-old Butler County man with dementia ended in tragedy.

The discovery of Billy Heartsill’s body a half a mile from his home on Rocky Road still weighs heavy on Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden’s mind. Heartsill was found under heavy brush in an area that had been searched by dozens of law enforcement officers, volunteers and the Alabama Forestry Commission’s K-9 unit.

Harden hopes to prevent similar tragedies in the future by using funds raised from the Butler County Sheriff’s PCA Rodeo to join Project Lifesaver.

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“It was a terrible tragedy with Mr. Heartsill,” Harden said. “We want to do whatever we can to keep something like that from happening again.”

Project Lifesaver is a company that provides training and resources that help agencies, such as the BCSO, search for individuals with Alzheimer’s, autism, Down syndrome, dementia or other cognitive conditions. Citizens 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 Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area.

“The bracelet would give off a signal that we’d be able to track from a mile on the ground or five miles in the air,” Harden said. “The person could always take the bracelet off, but we’re hoping that the families would help us by making sure they wear the bracelets.”

According to Harden, it will cost the BCSO approximately $5,000 to join Project Lifesaver. Harden said the BCSO would ask for a $300 donation from families to help pay for the bracelets.

“If we can prevent a situation like the one with Mr. Heartsill from happening again, it’s worth every single penny we spend,” Harden said.