Another Reason to Be Thankful on Thanksgiving (Real Life Occurrence in Escambia County)

The all-volunteer members of Escambia Search And Rescue are often called away from home, family events, work, and so on, to help others.  Occasionally we need help ourselves.  This is a true life story that happened to a member of Escambia Search And Rescue on Thanksgiving Thursday, 2017.

Imagine that you’re a single mom, busy cooking dinner on Thanksgiving.  Now imagine that for the last few minutes, you realize that you have not heard or seen one of your sons, who has Autism.  You ask your other son where his brother is, and he says “I don’t’ know, he got mad and ran off”.  A bolt of fear flies through you as you grab your keys and jump in the car.

Pulling off of your street, you see your son running down the road at a full run.  As he turns onto a side street that you know is a dead end, you think, “Well good, at least this is a dead end road, he has nowhere to go”.

As you turn onto that dead end road, your fears fly back as you see him dart into the wooded area at the end of the road.  The wooded area at the end of this road is made up of swamp and woods that cover about 25 square miles, and he was at a dead run as he left the roadway.

This type of situation occurs often all across the country.  Sometimes there is a happy reunion; sometimes there is a tragic ending.  Fortunately, this story does not end in tragedy thanks to a program called Project Lifesaver.

Project Lifesaver is a program for people who have a cognitive condition that may lead to wandering, and not being able to find their way home, or be safe (such as Autism, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc.).  They wear a small radio transmitter that constantly emits a radio signal that can be picked up by receivers that ESAR has distributed with certified Electronic Search Specialists around Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

The mom in the above scenario is a member of Escambia Search And Rescue, and is a certified Electronic Search Specialist.  She yells for her mom to call ESAR as she grabs her Project Lifesaver receiver and hits the woods.  Turning on the receiver, she immediately gets a beeping chirp, which tells her which way to go to her son.  As he changes direction time and time again, Project Lifesaver keeps telling mom which way to go, until she closes in on him about 75 yards deep in this thickly wooded, vine-choked area, and they both safely return home.

This situation was over in minutes, but without Project Lifesaver, this could have very easily turned into a multi-day search, involving hundreds of volunteers, and a multitude of public safety agencies.  That is just one of the values of Project Lifesaver.  You can figure up the value of volunteer man hours; you can figure up the value of public safety resources (law enforcement, fire, ems,  air support, etc.).  What you cannot put a value on is safely recovering a vulnerable child and bringing them home within minutes.

If you would like to know more about Project Lifesaver, please email

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