MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Three Rivers Park District is debuting a GPS tracking system to protect vulnerable guests.

The outdoors can pose an added challenge for families with loved ones who have autism, Alzheimer’s or dementia and have a tendency to wander.

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A new system called P.A.L., or Protect and Locate, relies on GPS technology to quickly locate a guest if they are missing.

Three Rivers Park Police gave a demonstration at Bryant Park in Eden Prairie. Police Chief Hugo McPhee rented four P.A.L. units for the summer with the hope that families with vulnerable loved ones will give the park system a try.

“They’re more reluctant to come to the parks for fear of losing a loved one, or having them go wander, and get into dangerous situation,” McPhee said.

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After a brief tutorial, visitors can now use the tracking device at any of the 26 parks in the system. The vulnerable person wears an electronic bracelet, which looks like a watch, while their caretaker has a monitoring device.

If the wanderer steps outside a set perimeter, an alarm sounds. The technology then goes a step further if the vulnerable guest has already gone from view. GPS tracking pinpoints the exact location through a computer or a mobile phone.

“Finding these people could just be minutes instead of hours and hours like the old way,” he said.

Free for all families to use, the goal is to provide peace of mind so everyone can enjoy a Minnesota summer.

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“This hopefully helps those families get out and enjoy what we have to offer,” McPhee said.