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Project Lifesaver hits SCV

Bracelets would help emergency personnel find wanderers

Posted: May 10, 2009 9:59 p.m.
Updated: May 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Kevin Tonoian, Technology Services Manager, wears the Project Lifesaver, a bracelet designed for special needs kids and the elderly population.

Local families will soon be able to take part in Project Lifesaver, a program designed to keep children with special needs and patients with dementia from wandering and becoming lost.

"Project Lifesaver is a nation-wide program and it really was a program that started to help families find their children or loved ones if they were to wander off," said Kevin Tonoian, the city's technology services manager.

Some local cities, including Monrovia and Camarillo, already take part in Project Lifesaver, he said.

The project, which involves bracelets that use Lojack-like radio frequencies to mark a wearer's location, is aimed toward people who cannot communicate on their own.

"It's really a neat program, and I think it's going to be something that ultimately gives more of a peace of mind to parents who have individuals who have special needs," Tonoian said.

The bracelets, which look like snap-on hospital bracelets, work off of radio frequencies rather than GPS, Tonoian said.

Bracelets include a transmitter and a small battery, he said.

The Santa Clarita City Council awarded $15,000 for a local pilot project, he said.

"Since then, we've been working with (Santa Clarita Autism Asperger Network) and also with the (Santa Clarita Valley) Committee on Aging to roll this out to the community," he said.

The city acquired the equipment at the end of 2008.

Since then, the organizations began a pilot program testing the bracelets on three local children with special needs, he said.

"We are getting geared up to complete the pilot phase and make this available to the greater community," he said.

The next step is to distribute 25 bracelets to members from SCAAN and the Committee on Aging in July, Tonoian said.

Bracelets cost $300, but that price could be offset, depending on a family's financial situation, he said.

The program could very well connect with local residents.

Nationwide, it is estimated that 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism, Tonoian said.

Local figures come to about 1 in 90 children, he said.

"It's really an issue that has been growing, and not just in Santa Clarita," he said.

Diana Sevanian, who will serve as the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center's Project Lifesaver program administrator, said she's looking forward to getting bracelets placed on seniors who are at risk for wandering.

"A bone-deep fear shared by family caregivers is that their dependent loved ones will wander away and become lost or injured," said Sevanian, director of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center's Health & Wellness program. "This worry dominates the mind, whether you're the parent of a child with autism or the adult child of a parent with Alzheimer's disease. Project Lifesaver provides a much-needed layer of security to these concerned families."

Project Lifesaver coincides with the Santa Clarita Valley Special Needs Registry online organized by Community and Law Enforcement Aware Response (CLEAR), available to local residents.

"The registry is for anyone with any sort of special need," said Emily Iland, chair of the CLEAR committee and SCAAN board member.

About 200 people have been signed up on the registry so far, she said.

By registering, local families are able to help first-responders in case of an emergency, she said.

The online entries kept on a secure database and include specifics about the individual, their condition and a photo for emergency responders to use, she said.


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