The founder and CEO of Project Lifesaver, which is a non-profit 501c3 organization specializing in the radio-tracking and locating of individuals with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, and others that may tend to wander and become lost. They are located through the signal emitting from a wrist transmitter being tracked by an equipped, trained search team. The organization also offers training on the disorders for law enforcement and first responders and consulting for agencies conducting searches.
The Man Behind the Non-Profit Organization
Gene founded Project Lifesaver as a non-profit 501c3 organization. After graduating from Norview High School in Norfolk, Virginia he entered the US Army for active duty. On leaving active duty, Gene had several jobs including Virginia Power, Credit Manager, Desk Clerk, but in 1968 Gene joined the Chesapeake Virginia Police Dept. He retired in 2001 from the police dept as a Captain, having served in all areas of the police dept., including forming the SWAT Team and serving as Commander for 23 years. During those times Gene attended Old Dominion University, and the University of Louisville Southern Police Institute for 2 years before retiring from the police department.
While with the Police Dept SWAT Team, Gene and his team began having to conduct several searches for persons with cognitive disorders and were not as successful as they wanted to be. These searches took vast amounts of time and manpower, and little was known as to proper search techniques for those persons. Gene always wanted something that would enable the agencies to move quickly to locate the person before tragedy overtook them and to reduce the amount of manpower needed for such searches.
Saving Hundreds of Lives
Gene’s Project Lifesaver Program is run at the municipality level by various public safety agencies. When an agency decides to implement a program, Project Lifesaver International will equip them with all the needed technologies and provide the needed training to those involved. The non-profit organization’s training includes the use of the equipment implementation of the strategic methods specifically designed for the program, and also community policing courses that provide a basic understanding of cognitive conditions to better comprehend the behaviors of an individual with said condition.
The non-profit organization has also included the PLS Database during the training, which is provided to the member agencies free of cost. Gene says, “Completion of training is required for certification. Once an agency has become certified, they may begin acquiring clients for their local program.”
Project Lifesaver’s method relies on proven radio technology and specifically trained search and rescue teams. Those who enroll for Project Lifesaver, wear a small transmitter on their ankle or wrist that emits an individual frequency signal. If a client goes missing, the caregiver contacts the non-profit organization, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area. The first responders then use the client’s individualized frequency to locate the position of the individual. The knowledge given from the community policing courses is best applied in this situation because the first responders know how to best approach the client once found, and allow them to be brought back to safety.
Advantage over Peers
Project Lifesaver is quite different from its peers mainly due to;
- Innovation: Project LifeSaver strives to find innovative ideas to improve the methods of “bringing loved ones home!”
- The program, Not a Product: It is not about wearable technology; it’s a program specifically designed to protect certain ‘at risk’ individuals.
- Community Involvement: The non-profit organization, bridges the gap between the first responders and their community.
- Cost-Effective: The program reduces funds, manpower, and time needed to conduct a search and rescue mission.
- Proven and Trusted: Project Lifesaver is the most effective SAR program for the ‘at risk’ population.
- Peace of Mind: It provides caregivers peace of mind knowing their loved ones are protected.
Tackling Challenges and Future Roadmap
As a leader of Project Lifesaver, Gene believes his biggest challenges are Supply issues and getting good staff. He feels, planning, and moving with the flow will help, in the supply issues, so he suggests to, recruit good people that have a mindset like you. Reward good performance and look out for your people.
When it comes to the future, Gene plans to continue to grow Project Lifesaver’s membership of agencies and work toward even better technology to aid in the mission he has.
Suggestions for Younger Self
When we asked Gene to provide some valuable suggestions for young entrepreneurs, he said, “If you have an idea, move on it. Do not let others discourage you! Understand there will be obstacles and make up your mind to overcome them. Never Quit!”