A 7-year-old Lake Elmo boy who had wandered from home was found shortly after being reported missing Sunday afternoon, thanks to a special radio-signal-emitting bracelet he was wearing that is used for just such an emergency.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office was called to the boy's home about 1:30 p.m. at the Cimarron Mobile Home Park and Golf Course at the junction of County Roads 10 and 17 in Lake Elmo. Officers, with help from a State Patrol helicopter, immediately began a search, said Detective Sgt. Lonnie Van Klei.

Responding officers had determined that the boy was a participant in the Sheriff's Office SafetyNet program. Under the program, participants wear a special bracelet that transmits a radio signal that can be tracked by a receiver. Once that receiver arrived on the scene, Van Klei said, the boy was found unharmed at a neighboring home about 15 minutes later. The radio signals give more precise location information than GPS systems.

Without the bracelet and the program, which requires special training by deputies, the boy would not have been found as quickly, Van Klei said. The SafetyNet program has been very successful since the Sheriff's Office began using it, he added.

It addresses the risks associated with the growing number of people with a variety of cognitive conditions — such as Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome and dementia — who are at risk of wandering off.

In a similar case last fall, an 11-year-old boy with autism near Hollandale, Minn., was found unharmed in a Freeborn County cornfield using the same equipment after a 25-minute search.

LoJack, the Canton, Mass., company that makes the bracelets, trains and certifies public safety agencies with the SafetyNet search and rescue equipment. The program is designed to eliminate traditional searches that often take many hours. And it gives caregivers a measure of comfort that a technological tool offers added safety. It also makes tracking equipment for laptops and stolen cars.

Jim Anderson 651-925-5039