September 16, 2009

Lo Jacking the Kids

I saw a news article today about how the company Lo Jack, known for its car security just hired someone new to head up its "Safety Net Unit" This unit develops solutions for populations prone to wander, like kids with autism, my kids. Also known as "elopement".

I laughed because my image of Lo Jack comes from the movies, where a thief steals a car and then someone activates their lo jack system and the car comes to a hault, foiling the car thief's plan to reap unearned rewards from its many valuable parts. But Lo Jacking the kids, that is not so funny.

Lo Jack felt the need to hire someone experienced with the elderly and disabled in order to really meet the needs and develop new solutions for this population.

From Lo Jack's recent press release, Safety Net is:
is a comprehensive system that in conjunction with the Project Lifesaver Program enables public safety agencies the ability to track and rescue people with cognitive conditions who tend to wander, including those with Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome and dementia. LoJack SafetyNet is comprised of a Personal Locator Unit (PLU) worn by the client, a Search and Rescue (SAR) Receiver for law enforcement, a database of key information about the clients to assist in search and rescue, and 24x7 emergency caregiver support.
Pretty impressive? All of my children have wandered away on two separate occasions for more than fifteen minutes and in one instance I did have to call the police. Thankfully they didn't wander far, curiousity led them down the street. None the less, it is a terrifying situation that conjures up far too many sad news reports and personal fears than I care to mention.

So what is involved in this service?
A Personal Locator Unit is typically worn by the person at risk around their wrist or ankle. The PLU constantly emits a Radio Frequency signal, which can be tracked regardless of where the person has wandered -- even into a densely wooded area, a body of water, a concrete structure, or a building constructed with steel.
The Radio Frequency signal enables police to pinpoint the precise location of the missing person using the handheld, portable SAR Receiver. The receiver can actually detect the Radio Frequency signal from the PLU within a range of approximately one mile in on-the-ground searches and 5-7 miles in searches by helicopter. The database, a critical component of the solution, includes key information that provides insight as to where the person might have wandered if he/she goes missing, and provides searchers with a recent photo and other pertinent information. LoJack's caregiver support organization is available by phone and e-mail and is accessible 24x7 for emergencies.

I like the idea of being able to find my kids if the need arrives, but the idea of them walking around daily with a device attached to their wrist or ankle, disturbs me. Also the cost is a bit prohibitive - $99.00 registration fee and $30.00 monthly. Not saying they aren't worth it, just wondering if their is a better way to teach safety awareness.

I think if it became a serious problem, I would definitely consider it, but right now I don't think I will be lo jacking the kids anytime soon.