On July 20, 2015 at approximately 6:59 p.m. the Sheriff’s Office Communications Bureau received a call on the Project Lifesaver Emergency Hotline about a 21 year old resident of an Aid to the Developmentally Disabled group home that had gone missing.
According to the manager, Andrea Robinson, the resident, Joelle Ferstenberg, was able to disable a door alarm and leave the home. Ms. Ferstenberg was recently registered as a Project Lifesaver client by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. The Project Lifesaver program is a countywide emergency response locator service implemented by Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco that is capable of finding individuals diagnosed with cognitive impairments which may cause them to wander and become lost.
Trained responders from the Sheriff’s Office were notified via an automated alert system and responded to the group home located at 63 Lakeview Drive in Riverhead. Deputy Sheriff Sergeant Douglas Forte and Deputy Sheriff Michael Brecht arrived in the area of the group home and immediately began receiving a signal from the transmitter assigned to Ms. Ferstenberg. The wrist-worn transmitter bracelet emits a signal unique to each Project Lifesaver client.
Using a hand held receiver, Sergeant Forte tracked the signal to a heavily wooded area near the group home. Sergeant Forte and Deputy Brecht located Ms. Ferstenberg about a half mile into the wooded area and escorted her out to safety. Ms. Ferstenberg was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center via ambulance for minor cuts to her legs, feet and arms. Using this technology, responders were able to safely locate the missing person about 13 minutes after their arrival on the scene. The Southampton Town Police Department also assisted in the search. More information about this unique program may be found on the Sheriff’s Office website via the Project Lifesaver link at www.suffolksheriff.com.