Searching for the Lost: A Task for an Officer, Not a Caregiver

These days are typically just like any other, that is until you do final bed checks at night, before hitting the sheets yourself, only to discover that your loved one is no longer in their bed. Just an hour before, they laid there peacefully, slipping into a night of restful slumber. You hadn’t observed any commotion, nor had you heard any of the alarms chime, but with a quick sweep throughout the rest of your home, you discover that they are nowhere else within the residence.

They’re gone.

Emotions are starting to take over.

Tears are welling in your eyes.

The pit in your stomach becomes more apparent with each passing second.

Stress starts overtaking your rationale.

Panic sets in.

Your loved one is missing, and while you want nothing more than to find them safely, your judgment is clouded by fear and desperation – two emotions, while rightfully expressed, that hinder your ability to act in a rational and instinctive manner.

In the haste of your fear, your recollection of details is not always easily accessible or completely accurate.

What was little Johnny wearing today? It was definitely the blue stripes… or was it the red?

Mom has been talking a lot about returning home lately to visit her parents. Did she grow up on Main Street? No wait, that was where dad grew up… She told me stories about her childhood home all the time when I was a kid, why can’t I remember where it was located?

Details are crucial. Staying calm and collected in the presence of danger is even more imperative.

While you may seek for the best outcome, a missing loved one is too personal for a caregiver, and the stress and panic that ensues is not the optimal condition of someone seeking the lost.

Public safety officers, on the other hand, are not negatively impacted by emotions, because in such an instance, they are able to remain level-headed by calling on their previous training and skills. While still hoping for the best outcome, public safety officers can set aside emotional turmoil and approach the situation tactically.

Procedure. Protocol. Routine. Methodology.

While a caregiver will act on impulses, public safety officers are specially trained to handle these types of incidences, effectively and efficiently.

So, when your loved one is lost, your first and only instinct should be to call 911 – and do so immediately!

I spent more than thirty years as an officer of the law. In that time, I encountered many civilians frantic because of the circumstances surrounding them, and I also quickly grew to appreciate the ability of officers to set aside personal investment into a case, such as a search for a missing person, to help maintain control of the situation.

Many of Project Lifesaver’s operations are reflective of the knowledge I gained on the force – after all, thirty-three years accounts for an abundance of lessons learned. Never once have I doubted the decision to remain a program operated through public safety agencies; in fact, I wholeheartedly believe that this particular strategy within our comprehensive program has made the biggest difference in the outcomes of our searches. The same cannot be said about the solutions promoting safety within a device, which places the sole responsibility of a search on the caregiver and technology that is liable to fail.

If a pipe bursts in your bathroom and your house is quickly filling with water, you aren’t going to try to mend the pipe on your own if you have no background in plumbing, now will you? No! You would call a professional.

Why would you assume that when your loved one goes missing that you should act any differently? Call in the professionals… it’s their job, after all.

Okay, maybe not the best metaphor – as a pipe is nothing in comparison to an actual human life, but I hope you see my point: an app is comparable to slapping a piece of duct tape on a busted pipe and expecting it to be the be-all, end-all solution despite the increasing pressure. Eventually, that adhesive is going to wear thin, and the stress will lead to its downfall.

There is a reason Project Lifesaver is recognized as the Angels in Khaki, a nod to our uniforms and a recognition of our abilities. Our program has extended far beyond the reach of khaki, but our Electronic Angels® still bring to the table what other options cannot: sure, we have the device, but we also have trained, certified, and able-bodied public safety officers on our side in all times of need.

This current way of thinking was not around in the days when Project Lifesaver began. When something of this magnitude occurred, the caregivers were not the source of relief; instead, they relied upon the trained public safety professionals, in which they found comfort that the search will be conducted to the best possible ability. There is something to be said of that.