Recog­ni­tion for vol­un­teer people-finder


Hours spent vol­un­tar­ily keep­ing tabs on a ra­dio track­ing sys­tem for people at risk of wan­der­ing off has earned a lo­cal man a na­tional award.

Ar­ron Schroder, a mem­ber of Land Search and Res­cue (LandSAR), is the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety Manawatu ad­min­is­tra­tor for Wan­derSearch, a ra­dio fre­quency-based wear­able track­ing sys­tem that re­duces the time spent look­ing for people who either wan­der or run off.

In­tro­duced in Manawatu three years ago, Schroder has co­or­di­nated Wan­derSearch since its in­cep­tion.

He takes care of the pa­per­work, de­liv­ers the track­able pen­dants across the MidCen­tral Dis­trict Health Board re­gion, checks them and re­places the bat­ter­ies ev­ery six months. All on his own time and at his own ex­pense.

His ded­i­ca­tion had earned him a 2017 Min­is­ter of Health Vol­un­teer Award.

‘‘It was a bit of a sur­prise to be nom­i­nated, let alone win that sec­tion.’’

He was one of nine from around the coun­try who re­ceived awards from Health Min­is­ter Jonathan Cole­man at Par­lia­ment.

‘‘I joined Search and Res­cue af­ter I re­tired seven years ago. Tramp­ing was a pas­sion and it was an op­por­tu­nity to give back,’’ Schroder said.

A mem­ber of the in­ci­dent man­age­ment team, his LandSAR train­ing had Schroder at­tend a sub­ur­ban search course.

‘‘I saw the sta­tis­tics that showed de­men­tia was a grow­ing is­sue, and read the in­for­ma­tion about Wan­derSearch.

‘‘I went to Andy [ Sergeant Andy Brooke, of­fi­cer in charge of LandSAR in Palmer­ston North] and said ‘do you want some­one to run this?’, and it went from there.’’

Brooke said track­ing some­one with a pen­dant usu­ally in­volved a team of three, and a search was of­ten re­solved within an hour.

With­out a pen­dant, a search could take a team of 20 or so sev­eral hours or even days.

‘‘Ar­ron is an amaz­ing com­mu­nity vol­un­teer mak­ing sure people stay safe,’’ Alzheimer’s Manawatu man­ager Donna Hed­ley said.

Among those wear­ing the pen­dants, which in­cluded chil­dren with autism, Hed­ley said there was an up to 80 per cent re­duc­tion in people wan­der­ing off and run­ning away.

En­quiries about the pen­dants can be made on 0800 004 001.


Ar­ron Schroder with Wan­derSearch, a ra­dio fre­quency based wear­able pen­dant track­ing sys­tem.

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