Not long ago, Betty Devine was at a doctor's appointment in Marysville. As usual, she couldn't concentrate or relax.

Not long ago, Betty Devine was at a doctor's appointment in Marysville. As usual, she couldn't concentrate or relax.

She had left her husband, Paul, reading a magazine in the waiting room, but didn't know how long she could count on him remaining there.

Paul, 88, suffers from dementia and is a frequent wanderer. Mrs. Devine checked in on him every couple of minutes, but the last time she returned to the waiting room, he was gone.

"I called 911 immediately and they knew we were a part of Project Lifesaver," Devine recalled. "They sent out the search team right away and they found him in less than 15 minutes. He was six or eight blocks away, standing in front of his childhood home."

Project Lifesaver is an international organization that provides equipment and training to rapid-response agencies that search for adults and children who wander away from their caregivers because of Alzheimer's disease, autism, Down syndrome, dementia and other cognitive maladies.

The Union County Sheriff's Office has been a Project Lifesaver agent since the beginning of 2006.

The Lifesaver premise is simple: Residents who enroll in the program – free to Union County residents – are provided with a transmitter to wear on their wrist or ankle that emits a personal tracking signal. When a client goes missing, his or her caregiver contacts 911 or the local Lifesaver agency and a trained response team heads immediately to the location where the wanderer was last seen.

"We have a 100 percent success rate, which I think is a pretty amazing statistic," said sheriff's deputy and Project Lifesaver coordinator Kim Zacharias. "All of our rescues are accomplished in under half an hour – most in 10 or 15 minutes. That compares to hours or even days for those not participating in the program."

Project Lifesaver in Union County has had as many as 65 clients and as few as 10 since its inception. The number can change dramatically, often due to clients who move out of the county, mature out of wandering (in the case of some autism patients) or die.

Zacharias would like to reach every family in the county with a wanderer, although recent budget cuts makes 30 to 35 clients optimal.

"Every month, I go out to our clients' homes and check in with them, see how things are going, make sure their batteries are functional, remind them what they're supposed to do and make sure we have all the information we need from them," Zacharias said.

Project Lifesaver was founded by Virginia Beach Police Chief Gene Saunders in 1999 and now has 1,200 agencies in 46 states as well as Canada and Australia. The project has been responsible for 2,508 rescues in 13 years.

Devine said she initially was reluctant to sign up with Project Lifesaver.

"I was told about the program by a friend and didn't want it at first, but she insisted," she said. "It's such a comfort to know (Paul) has it on and to know that I can call Project Lifesaver and find him in minutes."

Caregivers with potential Project Lifesaver clients are encouraged to call deputy Zacharias at 937-645-4100, ext. 4471.