Pancakes for a Lifesaver

Published 10:55 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

For anyone who likes pancakes and saving people’s lives, this Saturday will be a great day.

The International Association of Fire Fighters local union is sponsoring a pancake breakfast fundraiser from 8 to 10 a.m. at Applebee’s restaurant. The proceeds of each $5 ticket will benefit the Project Lifesaver program, which is administered through the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue.

Project Lifesaver provides tracking bracelets, at no cost to the clients, for people with brain illnesses or injuries that give them a tendency to wander.

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The fundraiser is especially important this year. The digital TV conversion means new equipment must be purchased because the program must switch frequencies, said Pam King, a fire investigator and coordinator of the Suffolk program.

“We have been blessed with a couple of grants to cover bulk equipment,” King said. “Saturday, we’re hopefully going to try to buy frequencies and batteries.”

The program purchases tracking bracelets for patients, pagers for their caregivers, and tracking equipment for the fire and police departments to use to locate lost patients. When a patient goes missing, the caregiver can activate the pager and alert the fire and police departments, which then use the specialized equipment to home in on the location of the transmitter bracelet.

“It’s just a really, really neat program,” King said. Patients have been found as quickly as eight minutes after a search began, she said; the average is about 22 minutes.

Patients of any age who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, autism, brain trauma, or any other condition that gives them a tendency to wander are eligible for the program. It’s not cheap, though. For each patient, Project Lifesaver provides a transmitter bracelet, pager, batteries, and a $275 frequency at no cost to the patient or the family.

“The proceeds help us buy the equipment that’s going to make this transfer,” King said. “Without the funds, we’re not going to be able to make the transfer across the board.”

The program is an important part of the lives of people living with these conditions and their families, King said.

“I understand the necessity and the peace of mind it would provide,” King said.

The pancake breakfast will be held at Applebee’s on North Main Street in Suffolk on Saturday from 8 to 10 a.m. The menu includes pancakes, sausage and a beverage for $5 per person.