Project Lifesaver comes to West Baton Rouge Parish

WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - West Baton Rouge Parish welcomed a new tool on Friday, Project Lifesaver. It includes a device that can be placed on anyone who wanders --- including autistic children, making it quicker and easier for officials to track them down.

In a scenario to help familiarize Port Allen firefighters with Project Lifesaver, a 15-yr-old with autism went missing.  Project Lifesaver is a nationwide program that's designed to track those who wander.

"(It is for) anyone that has a tendency to wander, with autism, dementia, Alzheimer's or a traumatic brain injury," said Project Lifesaver's Paul Ballance.

In Dec. 2012, a 6-year-old boy with autism left a Christmas Party and started walking down a cane field road towards Hwy 190 in West Baton Rouge Parish.  His body was found in the grass.  That tragedy is what inspired the Stephens family to bring Project Lifesaver to West Baton Rouge.

"After that, I began searching for Project Lifesaver in the area and found out it was not there," said Randi Stephens.

The Stephens have two boys, 4 and 6-yrs-old, one of whom is autistic.  When the Stephens lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, both their boys had a band in case they wandered.  So when she moved to Port Allen, she fought for the same.  

"My youngest has a significant developmental delay when it comes to safety awareness," said Stephens.  "With a typical child, that child knows what the dangers are when they're wandering.  That child knows when I don't know where I am, I need to call for help.  He doesn't have that capability."

So Port Allen Fire Chief Rick Boudreaux applied for a grant.  It was accepted and on Friday, to train the firefighters, Project Lifesaver's Paul Ballance hid one of the bands that has a radio frequency transmitter inside, somewhere in Port Allen.  

Math tells us a person can walk four miles in an hour.  In their scenario, the 15-yr-old has been missing 15 minutes so firefighters focused on a one mile radius from his home.  They zeroed in on William and Lee Park pointing a receiver towards the hidden transmitter.

The closer officials get to the receiver, the louder the beeping gets.  In this specific scenario, the band was found near the old swing sets.

The Stephens family has since moved to Central and is now trying to get Project Lifesaver in East Baton Rouge.

If you would like to enroll someone in Project Lifesaver in West Baton Rouge Parish, head to the fire station in Port Allen on North Alexander Avenue.

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