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New Bern: Now A Project Lifesaver Community!


City and Eastern Carolina Council (ECC) representatives demonstrated Project Lifesaver to the Board of
Aldermen at their September 12th meeting.
(L-R) Interim Chief Jim McConnell, New Bern Fire-Rescue; David Bone, Executive Director, ECC; January Brown,
Deputy Aging Director, ECC; Chief Pat Gallagher,
New Bern Police Department; Lieutenant T. Conway,
New Bern Police Department.

New Bern Fire-Rescue and the New Bern Police Department have partnered with the Eastern Carolina Council Area Agency on Aging (ECCAAA) to implement Project Lifesaver, an international search and rescue program designed for at-risk individuals who are cognitively impaired and prone to wandering.  At the Tuesday, September 12th Board of Aldermen meeting, New Bern Fire-Rescue, Police, and the ECCAAA made a special presentation and demonstration of Project Lifesaver to the Board. A Memorandum of Understanding with the
ECCAAA was approved by the Board and signed by the City in August. 

Clients enrolled in Project Lifesaver are given a Personal Locating Unit (PLU) - a lightweight wristband which houses a small battery and a radio transmitter.  The transmitter sends an automatic tracking signal once every second. The signal can be tracked on the ground or from the air. The technology is designed to help first responders locate clients, who may have wandered away from their homes and cannot find their way back, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Project Lifesaver is ideal for older adults who suffer from cognitive conditions such as Autism, Alzheimer's, Dementia, Down Syndrome, and others. The program is provided through grant funding, and based on availability, there should be no cost to enrollees who meet prerequisite criteria.

When a loved one who is wearing a PLU is reported missing, first responders will arrive at the last known location of the individual and use a portable receiver to monitor the signal coming from the client’s wristband.  The strength of the signal will help first responders determine the proximity of the client. The receiver is capable of picking up signal in a 360˚˚  pattern. This technology saves time and resources for first responders, increases the chances of finding the missing person, and decreases the chances of serious injury or death for adults who have the propensity to wander. Project Lifesaver also provides the opportunity to transfer a client to another community that uses the program. For instance, if a family leaves home for vacation or is evacuated for a hurricane, city staff can assist in locating a participating community and transferring the wristband identification to that agency. In eastern North Carolina, there are 17 agencies that utilize Project Lifesaver within a 100-mile radius of New Bern. The closest ones are in Carteret and Onslow counties.

Lieutenant T. Conway, New Bern Police Department, demonstrates how the wristband transmitter can be tracked using the receiver and antenna.

“Several times a year, our first responders are called upon to find a missing person who suffers from a cognitive impairment. Project Lifesaver will help us significantly reduce the time, money and staff resources required during these pursuits,” said Chief Pat Gallagher, New Bern Police Department. ”When you can locate someone within minutes instead of hours or days, it can be lifesaving. This is a program that will provide peace of mind for caregivers and families.”

New Bern Fire and Police launched a pilot program of Project Lifesaver in early 2023. ECCAAA provided all of the equipment and training to staff and initially vetted and enrolled two clients. The pilot program allowed staff to familiarize themselves with the technology and to establish a relationship with two local families dealing with challenges at home. Although the two clients never wandered, the trial period was a success.

“According to some of the other Project Lifesaver agencies, they’re averaging about 30 minutes to locate a missing person who has wandered off, who is enrolled in the program,” said New Bern Fire-Rescue Interim Chief Jim McConnell.  “I can recall several incidents in my career where we’ve called in every available fire and police resource to canvas a neighborhood, talk to the family, and interview friends and neighbors who may have seen the missing person. These searches were hours long, sometimes a half-day or more. This is an added layer of public safety to help people living with cognitive issues and their families.”

Interim Chief Jim McConnell, New Bern Fire-Rescue, explains to the Board of Aldermen the specialized training staff have received in order to operate the Project Lifesaver equipment.

Project Lifesaver’s launch in New Bern is made possible by two grants: one through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Project Lifesaver International grant and the other through the Older Americans Act Family Caregiver Support Program. To date, the training and equipment provided to staff totals approximately $11,000, which includes 20 bracelets, transmitters, extra batteries and two receivers. New Bern Fire-Rescue and the New Bern Police Department will provide all operational support for Project Lifesaver to clients and caregivers, and ECCAAA will provide case management and intake of enrollees. If you are interested in enrolling your loved one or have additional questions about Project Lifesaver, please contact January Brown at the Eastern Carolina Council Area Agency on Aging at (252)638-6185, extension 3011 or via email at

The Eastern Carolina Council Area Agency on Aging serves nine counties including Craven, Carteret, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico and Wayne. For more information about the ECCAAA, visit
For more information on Project Lifesaver, visit