Even the thought of not being able to quickly locate a missing person troubled Officer James Williams.
As a member for the Munhall Borough Police Department, he had been involved in missing person reports in the past and remained well aware of the many elderly and special needs people in his community.
So when Officer Williams first heard about Project Lifesaver International, he immediately wanted to bring its technology to his department.
A nonprofit organization, Project Lifesaver International uses radio-transmitting bracelets to help public safety agencies locate people with special needs, such as Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome, dementia or other cognitive conditions. The bracelets are supposed to reduce search efforts from hours to minutes.
Through a federal grant from the Department of Justice, Project Lifesaver International recently selected an application proposal from Officer Williams and awarded the Munhall Police Department with a grant.
"We will be the first department in Allegheny County to have this type of program," said Officer Williams, who will serve as the department's project coordinator. "My hope is that we're able to get this off the ground and we're able to grow it to where it's countywide."
With three senior living residences, a nursing home on West Run Road as well as five nearby mental health facilities, Munhall police are confident this new program will boost public safety.
The program also hits close to home for Officer Williams, whose 3-year-old son, Tyler, was recently diagnosed with autism.
"It's something that I thought would be important to try to bring to our area," Officer Williams said. "We want to see what we can do for everybody else because there are a lot of people who this could help."
The grant will cover Munhall with on-site training and a starter kit, which contains two bracelets, a six-month supply of batteries, transmitter testers and two hand-held receivers.
Officer Williams hopes to receive the starter kit and start training within the next two weeks.
"This will be a great resource to help assist our department as well as assist with public safety, especially those with special needs," Acting Chief Joseph Cibula said.
"When Officer Williams brought this to my attention I immediately thought this was a great idea to help with public safety."
The bracelet, which resembles a wrist watch, is a one-ounce battery-operated radio wrist transmitter. With a battery life of more than 30 days, the bracelet emits an automatic tracking signal every second, 24 hours a day.
"Officer Williams did an excellent job by having great initiative to find this program and then go out and work to get the grant," Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar said. "This will be a godsend once it's in place and we're able to quickly locate a person who may have gone missing.
"I'm very pleased that one of our guys when out and took the bull by the horns to find and get this program off the ground in Munhall."
According to Officer Williams, the Circleville Volunteer Fire Department in Westmoreland County's North Huntingdon as well as the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Butler are the only organizations in Western Pennsylvania currently using the program.
"I'm sure everyone has someone in their family or know someone who could benefit from this bracelet," Mr. Bodnar said. "Munhall is going to be the first department in the county to use this system, and hopefully it takes off and spreads around the county."
The department hopes to purchase more bracelets, and Officer Williams has begun a fundraising effort in order to help offset the expense.
"By getting the information out there now, we want people to start coming to us and asking how they can get involved," Officer Williams said.
"We want to get these bracelets to the people who need them, and we're only going to be able to do that through the fundraising.
"We want to get this program up and running, so we're looking for donations and volunteers."
For more information or to make a donation, contact Officer Williams at 412-464-7300 or visit the Munhall Crime Watch page at www.munhallpa.us/crime_watch or its Facebook page.
John D'Abruzzo, freelance writer: email@example.com.