Caleb Isaac Gloade was pleased to get a new bracelet. But it was his mother who was most excited.
“This bracelet will be better than the lottery for me,” said Nichole Gloade, of Valley, whose 13-year-old son was recently fitted with a radio transmitter bracelet.
Caleb, 13, is on the autism scale and has been classed as a flight risk.
The transmitter placed on his wrist is part of the Project Lifesaver program and is designed to help trained volunteers find him if he goes missing.
The Gloades also have a security system in their home to let them know if Caleb goes out on his own but they're aware he could take off from other locations. When he was in Grade 1 he got out of school while class was in session.
He’s now in Grade 6 at Redcliff Middle School.
“Caleb loves water and has no fear,” Nichole said. “This will give us peace of mind, especially as he ages and wants more independence.”
Owen Pierce has had a transmitter bracelet for about five years. The nine-year-old, who lives in North River, was two when he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
“He took off more than half a dozen times,” said his mother, Natalie. “We were usually able to find him right away but once he was really close to Highway 311. He has no sense of danger.”
An alarm system was installed in their home, and extra locks were put in but Owen was trying to escape from other locations. He discovered how to open a latch at the day care he attended, and when he started school he tried to run off a few times.
When a family member, who was part of Colchester Ground Search and Rescue, told Natalie and her husband Kenny about Project Lifesaver, they got in touch and soon had Owen registered.
“Wearing the bracelet didn’t bother him,” said Natalie. “He played with it a little at first. We related it with Bo on the Go’s energy bracelet.”
When the battery is changed, they allow him to choose which arm the bracelet goes on and he chooses the colour of the strap.
Kenny often volunteers at training activities, getting "lost" so searchers can find him. He tries to think like a child on the autism spectrum and he’s usually one of the most difficult people for searchers to locate.
Doug McNutt, coordinator of Project Lifesaver, which is run through Colchester Ground Search and Rescue in Colchester County, would like to see more people sign up.
“It works,” he said. “It’s proven itself and in some parts of Nova Scotia there are a large number of clients.”
There are six clients in the area and they range from pre-school age to about 40.
If a client is missing, Project Lifesaver is notified by police who can be on the road very quickly. McNutt keeps one of their three receivers at his home in North River and the others are at the base in Debert.
Eight volunteers are trained to use the equipment, and they’re re-certified regularly.
Signals can be picked up from about a mile on the ground, and 10 miles from the air. Four volunteers are trained to search from a helicopter.
There are usually only a couple of local searches each year, but Colchester assists in other areas, most often the HRM and Cape Breton. Every search-and-rescue team in the province operates Project Lifesaver.
“When you find someone it’s a fantastic feeling,” said McNutt.
The setup fee for Project Lifesaver is $325. After that, there is a $25-per-month charge. Trained volunteers visit clients’ homes each month to check equipment, changing the battery regularly.
Nichole learned about Project Lifesaver when she talked to the mother of a child wearing a bracelet.
“I don’t think enough people know about this,” she said. “If we’d known, we would have tried to get this long ago.”