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High-Tech Bracelets Locate Missing Ohio Seniors, Autistic Children

The Rocky River Police Department in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has linked data from bracelets to the county’s emergency communication system.

by / June 20, 2011
Photo courtesy EMFinders

To track down autistic children or senior citizens who may go missing, an Ohio police department is supplying wrist bracelets to its community that — with 911 assistance and cell phone technology — can triangulate the bracelet wearer’s location.

The Rocky River Police Department in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, acquired 15 of the tracking bracelets and demonstrated the technology to its citizens last week. Police Chief Kelly Stillman said Rocky River is the first city in Ohio to offer the bracelets, which are available free of charge (with a monthly activation fee) to those in the community who need them.

Stillman said nearly 30 percent of Rocky River’s population is senior citizens.

The bracelets — by EMFinders based in Frisco, Texas — are the size of a wristwatch. Two people are required to attach and take the device off a user’s wrist, Stillman said.

If someone wearing the bracelet goes missing, a family member or caregiver still must alert the Rocky River Police Department.  The person reporting the incident or the police department then will contact EMFinders and give the bracelet serial number worn by the missing person, Stillman said. While the police department follows its usual protocol for a missing person, EMFinders will send out a signal to the bracelet. In turn, the bracelet sends a signal to the 911 operator through the Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System (CECOMS).

CECOMS then routes the signal back to the police department, which can then track down the missing person between 10 and 22 minutes.

“CECOMS has a mapping utility that we have at all our 911 stations and it actually gives us a pinpoint coordinates or where this person is,” Stillman said. The map works much like Web-based maps available on search engines. “You just zoom in and you can see exactly where they’re sitting.”

The bracelets, usually priced at $200 each, were given to the police department for free. The bracelets require a $25 monthly monitoring fee that is paid through a contract with EMFinders.

The Rocky River Police Department is looking to get more of the tracking bracelets and hopes to receive the necessary funding through the city’s Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.

Similar tracking bracelets have found growing use in communities across the U.S. In one instance, bracelets were approved last year by the county Board of Commission in Multnomah County, Ore., to track the locations of five youths affiliated with gangs. The bracelets were part of a five-month pilot program to prevent gang violence.

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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