When a person who is using a WanderSearch device does go missing and the family/whanau or caregiver calls Police on 111 a search is advantaged by being able to look for the device from a distance using the search equipment.  The distance that the signal from the device can be picked up by the equipment depends on the surroundings.  Signals can be picked up from 5–8 km away from the top of overlooking hills, on the flat ground it can be about 1 km away. So, if the missing person has their WanderSearch device with them they can be found rapidly.

An analysis of a sample of incidents involving Police (May 2019 – Oct 2019) showed that the mean incident duration for a WanderSearch device wearer was around 1.8 hours with a maximum incident duration of 6 hours. For those people who did not have a device, the mean incident duration was 4.7 hours and maximum duration was 14 hours (information provided by NZSAR).

For many people with a cognitive impairment who go missing the time taken to locate the person is critical for their safety.  The longer a person is exposed to environmental hazards, including cold and wet weather, uneven surfaces causing falls and water/downing hazards the worse is their outcome. Also, if a person’s general health is fragile, and they will need to be located quickly. It is often quoted in North America that for people with dementia if found within the first 12 hours, 93% survive, which means that 7%, or one out of every 14 individuals with dementia, do not survive.  Of those that have gone missing for 24 hours, only a third survive, and if missing for 72 hours, only one in five are found alive.


For the user the equipment used in the WanderSearch program consists of a small Radio Frequency device selected to best suit the users preferences and lifestyle. 
A pendant/necklace, wrist and keyring style is available. 

The devices are small enough not to be intrusive and the battery life is in excess of six months.
Each device has its own individual frequency number which is associated to the person using it.


There are several types of GPS models available. While these have the advantage of being self-managed and having features such as a working watch at this time the battery life is significantly less at only 2-3 days compared to 6 months for Radio Frequency devices.

The WanderSearch RF devices are what is considered old technology however there are several reasons why they are still being used:


  • A long battery life (they should last over six months).
  • Easy and robust for people to use (there are no switches or moving parts).
  • Small enough to be unobtrusive for people to wear.
  • Shower proof and can be worn without taking off for six months until they need to be refurbished.
  • They do not use the cell phone network and so function in areas that GPS cannot.