Saskatchewan would benefit from a formal emergency alert system for missing seniors, according to the head of an association of over 300 search and rescue volunteers.
In 2017, Manitoba and Alberta introduced legislated Silver Alert programs, which trigger immediate notifications that a vulnerable senior has gone missing – similar to an Amber Alert.
“We should have this in our province,” said Bobbi Buchanan, president of Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers (SARSAV).
“I do think it would be a good tool in getting rapid information out to the public when a vulnerable person with dementia becomes missing,” Buchanan said.
There is no legislation in Saskatchewan outlining parameters for a Silver Alert and there is no uniform national Silver Alert program, Buchanan said.
In the United States, 36 states have official alerts for missing seniors or similar programs, according to Silver Alert Canada, which advocates for a Canada-wide strategy.
SaskAlert, the province’s emergency notification program, has the capability of sending a Silver Alert, according to Jay Teneycke, executive director of communications with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Government Relations.
“There is not a legislative requirement to issue these types of alerts in Saskatchewan,” Teneycke said, adding alerts are issued at the discretion of police.
Winnipeg police use the following criteria in determining whether it will issue a Silver Alert:
- the person is a missing person;
- the person is a vulnerable person or another adult with a cognitive impairment;
- the person’s safety and welfare are feared for given his or her cognitive impairment; and
- there is information available that, if disseminated to the public, could assist in the person’s safe recovery.
Under Manitoba’s legislation, the Silver Alert doesn’t trigger an automated message.
“Rather, the notice is sent to the media for dissemination,” Const. Jay Murray said.
Saskatoon Search and Rescue (SSAR) currently works with Saskatoon police through Project Lifesaver, which provides free locators for people at-risk of wandering off.
Fifty to 75 per cent of people sought by SSAR have cognitive disorders, according to Sean Taylor – the group’s fundraising director.
“Anything that assists in the location of an individual, it would be handy to have,” Taylor said, when asked if a Silver Alert would help search and rescuers.