BCSO seeking donations for Project Lifesaver

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

It’s been nearly five months since a 10-day search for Billy Heartsill ended in tragedy.

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden, who led the multi-agency search, is committed to making sure no other Butler County family has to endure the heartbreak the Heartsill family suffered, when the 77-year-old man, who suffered from dementia, was found a half a mile from his home on Rocky Road 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 is asking local businesses and civic clubs to partner with his office in that mission.

The BCSO recently purchased $5,000 worth of equipment from Project Lifesaver with funds from the annual Butler County Sheriff’s Rodeo and donations from the friends and family of Heartsill.

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.

Harden said it’s an investment in saving lives.

The bracelets emit a signal that can be picked up for a mile on the ground and five miles in the air. Each bracelet has its own frequency, which can be programmed into the receiver to allow authorities to track the missing person. According to Harden, the BCSO has the equipment to track up to 300 bracelets.

“If Mr. Billy had been wearing one of these bracelets things might have turned out differently. These (bracelets) are lifesavers. They are worth every penny that we will spend.”

The bracelets cost $300. Harden is asking that the family of those needing a bracelet purchase the bracelet. He’s also asking local businesses and civic clubs to consider making a yearly donation to the BCSO to help purchase bracelets or help offset the cost of the maintenance. According to Harden, the bracelets need a new battery and band each month. He estimates the cost of replacing the battery and band to be $6-7 a month.

“We want to get these on as many people as possible that need the bracelets,” Harden said. “That way if we have someone missing, we will be able to find them and save a life. Our goal is not to have anyone in Butler County that needs one of these bracelets not have one.”

Harden said only those with a documented medical condition such as Alzheimer’s, autism, Down syndrome, dementia or other cognitive conditions will be enrolled in the program.

Anyone wishing to make a donation toward the cost of the program or equipment can send a check to the BCSO. The check should be made payable to Project Lifesaver. For more information on how to enroll in the program or make a donation, contact the BCSO at (334) 382-6521.