HCSO implements Out of Harms Way kit

Imagine getting a call that a loved one has disappeared.

Whether it's a special needs child or an elderly family member, panic ensues, and the hunt is on.

Mere moments can mean the difference between life and death and the Houston County Sheriff's office is implementing a program to make these searches go faster.

It's just a basic kit with only five ingredients, six steps, and is no cost to the citizen.

Enclosed in the cardboard box is a jar, a pair of sterile gloves, a sterile pad, security tape, and sticker for a name.

Sheriff Donald Valenza advises those with special needs or elderly family members to wipe the individual's neck, arm, or armpits with the pad while wearing the gloves, then sealing it in the jar.

He said this scent should be usable for probably five years and is designed to do two things, save time, and give the dog a purer scent.

"It helps us immediately get on the ground," said Valenza.

This "Out of Harms Way Kit," is an outreach program of Find-M Friends Inc.

This organization has also trained and donated all of Houston County Sheriff's office dual-purpose K-9s, saving the department roughly $40,000.

Linda Boles of Find-M Friends Inc. said the kit is a new program, but right now is two for two.

Valenza has been busy making rounds to the county's nursing homes getting them on board with the program and getting kits set up for all the residents.

"When we get the call, we can advise the officers going to the scene 'Out of Harms Way kit is available, make contact when you get there," said Valenza. "As soon as he gets there he asks for it, we get the dogs and they get on the ground going. And if you can, put some additional medical information about the individual that we're applying this to, where we can have a better idea of maybe they're a diabetic."

"Statistically, an autistic child will elope by the time they're 17 at least once," said Boles. "And many of them are nonverbal, and they don't swim. And for whatever reason, they are attracted to water."

Valenza has worked three cases like this in his career, with two individuals not found in time, and says this program will be available as long as he's there.

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