Thermal imaging helps firefighters find missing 90-year-old

Published 1:11 pm Monday, August 3, 2020

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A 90-year-old female who had slipped away from her home and caregivers was found safe late Sunday night, thanks to the help of the Andalusia Fire Department and its thermal imaging technology.

Andalusia Police Department Chief Paul Hudson said he and his officers were involved in investigating a stabbing and a police pursuit when the department received a call that a caregiver had awakened to find that the woman, who suffers from dementia, had left her home on Packer Avenue.

“They got up to check on her and realized she was gone,” Hudson said.

The APD responded, and called on the Covington County Sheriff’s Posse for assistance. However, the posse was unable to use their tracking dogs because too many people had already walked around the area.

Hudson said the APD then requested assistance from the fire department.

“From what I understand, Chief Hudson briefed firefights on what needed to be done,” AFD Chief Russell McGlamory said. “We took Engine 7, which has enough scene lights to light up the world.”

As some firefighters drove the neighborhood searching with those lights, others used the department’s thermal imaging equipment.

“It’s basically a handheld device that picks up heat,” McGlamory said. “We normally use them if we go in a smoke-filled house, but you can actually see a thermal image silhouette of the person.”

The woman was found not too far from her home in the edge of a wooded area, where she had curled up.

“It didn’t really look like the silhouette of a human, but they were able to see the heat and locate her,” he said.

McGlamory credited the newest member of the department, Colter Poole, with actually finding the woman. Hudson said she was located within five minutes of the department’s arrival.

“She appeared to be uninjured, but we had rescue come and evaluate her,” Hudson said.

The APD referred to family to the Project Lifesaver program, a partnership between the Pilot Club of Andalusia and the Covington County Sheriff’s Department which provides tracking bracelets for those with brain disorders or injuries who might wander away from their caregivers and become lost.

Hudson expressed his appreciation to the AFD, the Covington County Sheriff’s Department and the Covington County Sheriff’s Posse for their assistance.