"We get a handful of calls like this one every year," said EOC Director Dave Costin. "They are scary calls. Fortunately, they found this little boy right away."
Putnam County's emergency responders are about to get a boost in helping them find lost or missing children, elderly and Alzheimer's patients as well as disabled persons and missing college students.
Training for a new program called A Child is Missing (ACIM) Alert Program will get underway at the EOC next week.
"This is a rapid-response neighborhood alert program utilizing high-tech telephony systems. It works in tandem with the Amber Alert and the Silver Alert," explained Costin.
ACIM can place 1,000 calls in sixty seconds, can process multiple cases simultaneously, and can work without jurisdictional boundaries.
"For example, if a call comes in for a missing child in Putnam County near Coatesville, our system doesn't cross into Hendricks County. This program does," explained Costin.
"A child goes missing every 40 seconds in the United States. That means a child has a one in 42 chance of going missing. The first hour is critical when a young person disappears. The faster an alert goes out the sooner a person is found," said Costin.
The program is offered free of charge to police and emergency dispatch. Funding comes from special events, sponsorships, private, corporate donations and state and federal funding.
The program started in Ft. Lauderdale and is spreading across the county.
Putnam County Sheriff Steve Fenwick, Police Chief Tom Sutherlin and Costin sent a letter to the ACIM asking to participate in the program.
The ACIM's Alert Program works with the emergency dispatch when a child or adult is missing. The dispatch center takes the call and passes on the information to A Child is Missing.
ACIM then makes a recorded message with the information that has been supplied to them.
The location last seen is entered into their computer and a database of phone numbers of the residents/businesses nearby is gathered. A message is then sent out to the community via telephone, text or wireless. There is no cost to the county for the service.
Persons with unlisted phone numbers and cell phone numbers can visit www.achildismissing.org to add those numbers to the notification database.
Law enforcement agencies can forward to ACIM any specific group of phone numbers of areas that might be a "hotspot" for children or elderly to frequent. Some examples are Boys and Girls Clubs, hospital emergency room numbers, elderly and children's day care centers and local search groups. They can also add any combination of phone numbers to aid in the search of a child in the community.
In order to have a faster search time and more definitive results, ACIM acquired a satellite imaging program that allows technicians geographic data of a specific area that could make a critical difference in a search for a missing child.
Moments after putting in an address, an aerial view of the region is seen, complete with street names, local landmarks, type of terrain, business listings, restaurants, schools, water, parks, bus and train stations and more. It allows the technician/dispatcher to intuitively grasp distance, scale, proximity and know the region as a whole.
"We're excited to start training on ACIM next week. While we hope we don't ever need it, we'll be ready if we do," stated Costin.
For information about the program call 954-763-1288 or visit ACIM's Web site at www.achildismissing.org