DOVER, NJ (Morris County) – All the stars were aligned Thursday morning when Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Travis Somerville learned that an 82-year-old man, who is a client of the office’s Project Lifesaver program, was missing from his home.
Project Lifesaver, which is free of charge, provides enhanced support and assistance to Morris County residents who are primary caregivers for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder, as well as families of children with Down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injuries or cognitive impairments.
On June 4, Officer Somerville had just finished changing the transmitter batteries for one client in Rockaway Borough and then called the wife of a Project Lifesaver client in Dover to see if he could drop by to change the batteries in her husband’s wrist transmitter.
The spouse told Officer Somerville she was about to call him because her husband, who is diagnosed with dementia, had left the house while she was momentarily occupied.
Officer Somerville immediately started driving to the Dover residence and contacted the Morris County Communications Center at 10:25 a.m. to convey that the Sheriff’s Office K-9 Section and Dover Police Department needed to respond.
Officer Somerville set his hand-held tracking device with the specific frequency of the Dover client’s wrist transmitter and as he approached the client’s home, the tracking device began chirping, indicating the client was nearby.
Officer Somerville scanned sidewalks and both sides of the street for the elderly gentleman, whom he spotted at 10:32 a.m. emerging from a convenience store carrying a cup of coffee, about a block from his home.
Officer Somerville pulled over by the store and approached the client, who appeared confused but recognized Officer Somerville as a uniformed law enforcement Officer. Within moments, a Dover Police Officer, a Dover Rescue Squad EMT and Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Will Diaz, who was on patrol in the area, arrived.
The man’s daughter, who works in the area, also arrived at the scene. Officer Somerville then took a stroll with the client to his home, to reunite him with his wife, who is his primary caretaker.
“I’m glad for the chance to help people in the community,” Somerville said.
“I was in the right place at the right time. It was a good feeling to find him. His wife, who is the primary caretaker, was very relieved and grateful. She was happy to see how well the equipment worked to get her husband home safely,” Somerville said.
Morris County Sheriff James Gannon commended Officer Somerville, who is assigned to the Office’s Community Outreach and Planning Section (COPS), for his calm and quick response Thursday morning.
“Thank you to Officer Somerville for quickly stepping in to locate, and then escort home, this vulnerable client. Project Lifesaver is an invaluable and free program that lets Morris County Sheriff’s Officers fulfill a guardian role of keeping watch over some of our community’s most at-risk residents,” Gannon said.
There currently are 136 adults and children enrolled in the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver program. All wear a wrist or ankle bracelet equipped with a small transmitter that emits a signal that law enforcement Officers use to track the person if they go missing.
Morris County’s speed at finding clients is better than the national average – approximately 13 minutes in Morris County versus about 30 minutes on average nationally. Founded on a principle of providing peace of mind to families and caregivers, the program operates nationwide, allowing families to vacation and still use the program to find a loved one if he or she wanders.
Morris County’s Project Lifesaver program receives some funding through an Area Plan Sub-Grant from the county of Morris’s Division on Aging, Disabilities and Veterans.
For more information on Morris County’s Project Lifesaver program, click here.
For more information on Warren County’s Project Lifesaver program, click here.
For more information on Sussex County’s Project Lifesaver program, click here.
For more information on Hunterdon County’s Project Lifesaver program, click here.