Search for missing man highlights importance of Project Lifesaver

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Escambia Search and Rescue used Project Lifesaver to try to find a 66-year-old man who was last seen at his home on East Belmont Street at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Family members got the call James Austin was safe about seven hours after he was last seen.

“It’s a huge relief both for us to be able to find the subject as well as the family to find their loved one safe,” Jeremy Findley with Escambia Search and Rescue said.

This time the search crews did not find him but his family did about eight to 10 miles away from home. Escambia Search and Rescue used Project Lifesaver to find Austin just two months ago and it took them about 23 minutes. Austin has a prior brain injury which makes him eligible to be part of the program.

“This allows us to locate them using a radio frequency transmitter that’s worn on their wrist,” Findley said. “It’s about the size of a watch. It has a unique frequency we use and we plug the frequency into this device.”

They walk around with the device and it chirps. The louder it gets means the closer they are to the missing person. It can reach up to a mile away and most people they search for wander off walking and aren’t too far from home.

“We have had a tremendous amount of success with this,” Findley said. “I have a son who is autistic and is on this program as well. He has wandered off and has been found very quickly.”

ESAR has 18 devices in Escambia and Santa Rosa County. About 40 children and 25 adults are using the program and their ages range from four to people in their 80s. Anyone who has a family member with a cognitive disability can get help.

It is free and available in sheriff’s office in Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

If you have a child or young adult with Autism or a related condition and want to take part in Project Lifesaver, contact Autism Pensacola, Inc. at 850-434-7171 or email

If you are an adult with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Traumatic Brain Injury or other related condition, contact Covenant Care at 800-541-3072.

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