- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

SUMTER, S.C. (AP) - It looks like a watch, but it doesn’t tell time.

It helps WynnDee DuRant find her 11-year-old daughter, Kelli, if she gets lost.

“She has never met a stranger,” DuRant said. “She doesn’t know danger. I go into a panic (when she walks off). This gives us security.”

Kelli was the first to get a bracelet with the Project Lifesaver program run through the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and has remained a client for nearly four years.

Originally funded by the Pilot Club of Sumter and Sumter-Palmetto Rotary Club, the LoJack SafetyNet Personal Locator Unit, or PLU as it is often referred to, is designed for individuals with cognitive conditions who tend to wander. Kelli has what is usually considered a mild form of autism known as Pervasive Developmental Delays Not Otherwise Specified. Though she was first diagnosed at the age of 6, she had already shown “significant developmental delays,” DuRant said, and a tendency to wander off when she gets focused on something.

“It’s basically a tag team,” DuRant said referring to her husband and other children. “There are six of us, and we’ll call out, ‘where’s Kelli?’ She’s very independent and very strong willed. Once she has set her mind on something, it’s set.”

The device emits a radio frequency that can be tracked using antennas and hand-held devices set to the client’s frequency.

“We don’t track or keep up with the client unless the individual is missing,” said Lt. Jenny Dailey, coordinator for the program with the sheriff’s office.

She and two others with the sheriff’s office are trained not only in search and rescue with the PLU, but also with communicating with an individual with cognitive conditions.

If the person does disappear from caregivers, the caregivers are encouraged to call law enforcement immediately.

“Normally, we can locate the person in 15 to 20 minutes if we are called immediately,” said Cpl. Eddie Hobbs. “The person is usually a mile to a mile and a half from where they were last seen.”

While the device hasn’t had to be used as it’s intended, there have been a few close calls, including once at church this past year and two years ago on vacation at Hilton Head.

“She had walked over a mile to a pier,” DuRant said. “Different counties have the program. So if the county had the program, we could call the sheriff, give them the frequency and they would be able to track her if she was lost.”

The men and women who work with the clients have grown close to them.

“We get attached to them and the family,” Dailey said with a smile. “If Kelli sees me out somewhere, she’ll bolt and come to me. If she sees other officers, she’ll ask them, ‘Do you know Ms. Jenny Dailey?’”

DuRant agreed.

“We’ve become good friends with Jenny Dailey through all this,” she said. “We’ve built a bond with Lt. Dailey.”

The program still has 10 PLUs available for clients. Typically, it would cost an initial $99 to enroll and a $30 monthly fee for maintenance, but thanks to donations from the Pilot Club and the Sumter-Palmetto Rotary Club, the costs is just a one-time fee of $25.

“We try to keep the cost off the client,” Dailey said. “The one-time $25 fee is to help off-set the cost of batteries, but it’s hardly a drop in the bucket.”

Batteries have to be replaced about every 30 days, and clients are asked to check the device daily to make sure it is working.

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Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/


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