This weekend a missing senior was found by a follower of the BC Silver Alert.
While we consider this to be a success for our program, we’d like to highlight this event to make suggestions on how the Silver Alert could be more effective in the future.
Missing seniors, with dementia (either diagnosed or suspected), or other cognitive deficits, are vulnerable to wandering. A quarter who are not found in the first 24 hours perish, and this increases to half if they are not found in 48 hours. This is a life threatening emergency!
The public are a missing vulnerable senior’s best chance at being found. It is essential that the public be made aware of the missing person as soon as possible. This should include a description, and a last known location, at the very least.
The current system of notifying the public is haphazard at best. In the case of the missing person on Saturday, a single media report was noted, no information post was found on the Surrey RCMP web site, the person was not described as suspected to have dementia. We were only alerted to the missing person by a follower of our BC Silver Alert Facebook Page. We re-posted the information, and fortunately another follower of our program found the missing person.
We would like to implore the police and the public to treat missing vulnerable people as an emergency. In particular, we would like to ask the police to do the following:
- Post information to their public web sites
Without a definitive, central organization taking the lead, the public may not trust the information is valid or current. The Police, as the agency in charge, need to take this role and make use of their web sites to do so.
- Post the link via social media channels
Always include the link to the web site. Channels like Twitter don’t allow many details
- Media should include the link to the police public web site
As the investigation proceeds, the police will update information in this central location. If media reports don’t include the link to the investigation page, the public will not be able to get the most current information.
- Include in the description that the person is suspected to have dementia.
In many cases we realize that there is no definitive diagnosis. Despite this, use dementia in your description of the missing person if there is a suspicion that they are a wanderer. This will trigger our automated system to pick up your post.
- On weekends the process for handling missing persons alerts is particularly weak – with little to no information posted via police social media channels.
The BC Silver Alert group has an automated system that will read police agency web sites and will post information via our social media channels. In the almost two years since we started we’ve alerted on over 50 missing people. Two of those have not been found. Tens of thousands of people have seen our posts.
We know there are many more missing people that never reach the alert stage. We hope that through the support of the police, the public and ultimately municipal and provincial government, we can help the public find and assist these people before they come to harm.