The alert came out early on March 3: A 2-year-old child was missing from a home on Avenger Lane.
It immediately triggered the city of Jacksonville’s Missing Endangered Persons Search and Rescue (MEPSAR) program, instituted two years ago, and officers searching his Westside neighborhood were joined by K9s, air and drone units, a dive team, and the missing persons unit.
A police bloodhound tracked the little boy to a neighborhood pond, where he was sadly pronounced dead.
Adding to the rapid response of MEPSAR, the city is also launching a new voluntary registration program to give searchers a head start when they try to find an endangered or vulnerable person with issues like autism, cognitive or memory problems.
People who have family members dealing with special needs, which can make them more difficult to locate, are asked to sign up with the new Registry for Endangered, Vulnerable, and Missing Persons within Duval County (R.E.V.A.M.P. Duval). They can register vital information like photographs, frequently visited locations, critical medical conditions and communication needs on the free database used by the fire and police departments.
The local database is the first of its kind in the U.S., and it went live Thursday morning, Mayor Lenny Curry announced at City Hall.
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“It allows first responders to better assist the missing individual,” he said. “These individuals may be at risk of wandering off from their place of residence or facility and are predisposed to becoming disoriented to time and space and require assistance from emergency responders to be returned home safely.”
It could speed up the search by hours, much like how searchers already hone in on ponds when looking for those with autism, Sheriff T.K. Waters said.
“A lot of times, it’s an attraction to water, so we know that those are the first places we go, the very first things we look at,” Waters said. “Then after that, to have that extra information is going to be extremely beneficial because we can deploy our resources very quickly utilizing R.E.V.A.M.P.”
With the two new efforts combined, city officials are heralding their “systematic, data-collecting, organized approach to searching for endangered individuals.”
MEPSAR is a step-by-step search procedure for missing people started in mid-2021, designed to get police and firefighter boots on the ground faster as well as drones, helicopters and fire engines on and above the streets in Jacksonville.
When the program is activated for a missing or endangered person, the fire department’s dispatchers send alerts to all firefighters’ emails as well as computer terminals in fire engines to get out early on the streets,” Powers said. Since May 2021, MEPSAR has resulted in 103 recoveries, with 94 of the 103 people found within the search radius suggested by collected data.
Using the R.E.V.A.M.P Duval database can include medical diagnoses and the person’s current physical and mental condition, Waters said. The information contained in the registry is restricted for emergency responder access only, limited to a “need-to-know” basis for official search and rescue operations.
“That information, if we have it ahead of time, can then allows us to begin looking for that person quicker as they move out from that core area that we know they are missing from,” Fire Chief Keith Powers said. “It speeds up the process of finding these missing people.”
As to who should register, the mayor reminded people that if their loved one “should wander, time is of the essence.”
“Providing this vital information is incredibly time-sensitive,” he said. “Registering with R.E.V.A.M.P. will not only provide peace of mind, but also allow for less worry and more action in case the worst should happen.”
To register with R.E.V.A.M.P. Duval, visit JaxReady.com/REVAMP, or call (904) 255-3172 for more information.