Civil Air Patrol

Steven Point Composite Squadron Leads the Way in Project Lifesaver Training

The Stevens Point Composite Squadron participated in two Project Lifesaver training events this fall.  The first training was hosted by the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and was held in Pittsville, on October 14.  A second training event in Stevens Point took place with Portage County officials the following week.

Project Lifesaver is a program that is designed to protect individuals at risk for the behavior of wandering.  By wearing a transmitter with a discreet frequency, an adult or child with autism or other cognitive disability can be quickly located and returned home.

Project lifesaver is a 501(c)(3) organization that grew out of a 1999 pilot program by a Chesapeake, Virginia search and rescue team.  It is the only organization officially designated to train public safety agencies to electronically locate lost persons. According to its website, recovery times average 30 minutes, in contrast to search times of hours to days. Over 3300 individuals have been rescued so far.

Involvement with Project Lifesaver began in 2008 when Captain Harry Dolan, with the help of Second Lieutenant Mark Page, started testing the ability to pick up the signal in an airplane.  To Dolan, it made sense that Civil Air Patrol could use the search techniques it uses to detect ELT signals to find a Project Lifesaver transmitter. While many individuals are found close to home, some individuals have the capacity to move beyond the normal range of the receivers, thus making airborne searching useful.

He almost had given up, but three years ago tried a new type of receiver and was able to detect the signal. The signal has been detected at 4500 feet AGL and as far away as five miles. More flights will be conducted to determine the limits.

The Stevens Point Composite Squadron began participating in scenario training two years ago. In 2015, nine members of the squadron received ground team training from Wood County Deputy Sarah McCormick so that the squadron could become a recognized Project Lifesaver partner.

The squadron is the first in the state and the nation to be trained in using Project Lifesaver equipment and explore its adaptation to airborne search techniques.

According to Dolan, “Project Lifesaver views us as the ‘go-to’ people for fixed wing aerial searches.”

Captain Dolan is pleased that the involvement in Project Lifesaver is finally gaining traction. “Project Lifesaver sees our value,” he said. Project Lifesaver has shared its training materials for searching from helicopters, and Dolan is planning to develop a similar set of training materials for fixed wing aircraft.  In June, he completed a “Civil Air Patrol and Project Lifesaver Feasibility Plan.”

Dolan also points out that an added benefit is that the law enforcement contacts we have now are starting to recognize our value in other areas.  “Police and firefighters know the value of having ‘eyes in the sky’ and the fact we can talk to them on their frequencies is an added bonus.”

Dolan’s involvement in Project Lifesaver is also personal, as his son has autism.

More information on Project Lifesaver can be found at:


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