Finding the Lost

“An EmFinders wristband can help emergency responders quickly locate people with cognitive disabilities that make them prone to wander.”





Peace of mind. It’s a wonderful thing. But if you’re caring for a loved one with a cognitive disability that makes him or her prone to wandering off, peace of mind is not a common state.

EmFinders, a national emergency location system,  may help. Mt. Lebanon Police and Fire departments recently partnered with EmFinders, which uses cell phone triangulation technology to find anyone wearing a special wristband device.

Commissioner Kelly Fraasch, who championed the adoption of the system, notes that many Mt. Lebanon residents are responsible for someone who has dementia, autism, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome or any number of neurological conditions that can cause disorientation or wandering. “They can be gone in a second, and the high-risk wanderer often cannot communicate and doesn’t know how to get home,” she says. “Any family that cares for someone who’s at risk for wandering and lives with the fear of losing that person needs to know about this program. It can help them with locating their loved one rather quickly.”

Law enforcement also benefits, because EmFinders simplifies and expedites the process of locating a missing person, thus reducing hours and tax dollars spent on these cases.

“This is a win-win for our community,” Fraasch says of the system.

Mt. Lebanon Police Chief Coleman McDonough looked into several similar systems before selecting EmFinders. “It best fit our needs,” he says, adding that of all the devices, EmFinders has the greatest range, can locate someone indoors and doesn’t require a lot of training or additional equipment. It utilizes existing cell phone technology to quickly locate high-risk wanderers. In addition, it has already been used in Allegheny County, so the 911 dispatchers are familiar with it.

If you have a need for EmFinders, you can sign up by calling 412-343-4016 or filling out the form posted on the fire department’s website,, under  the “community outreach” tab. There is a $25 per month (or $250 per year) subscription fee, but the wristbands, which generally cost about $150, are free until the supply runs out, thanks to a Mt. Lebanon Partnership donation from funds raised at last year’s ULTRAparty. Mt. Lebanon Police Department also worked out a deal with EmFinders to purchase a batch of wristbands at a discount.

When registering the device, the caregiver will provide EmFinders with a detailed description of and information about the person who will wear it. Additional information requested covers medical conditions, fears that could make the person hide or become agitated, whether the person wears hearing aids or glasses, medications the person is taking and the best way to approach the person. Once registered, a Mt. Lebanon firefighter will deliver the bracelet and provide instructions on how to charge the unit.

In the event the wristband wearer goes missing, the caregiver will call both 911 to make a report and EmFinders to have the device activated. Once EmFinders has located the missing person, they will call the police department in the community where the missing person is located and have an officer dispatched to the scene.
Mt. Lebanon Police Department will host a training session with first responders throughout Allegheny County, including those in the South Hills Area Council of Governments (SHACOG)—which comprises 17 local communities from South Park to Moon Township—so there will be no surprises or issues when EmFinders is first utilized. For more information, email