It rushes through the head, the heart and eventually lands somewhere in the pit of the stomach; the feeling of panic when a loved one goes missing is unmistakable.
But with a new alert system, Newton safety officials can help shorten the length of that panic and eventually reunite loved ones.
The Silver Alert, similar to the Amber Alert, signals local officials, safety personnel and media outlets when a person with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia wanders off or goes missing.
"Working together, the government and the entire community has an obligation to do everything we can to help those who are most at risk," Shapiro said. "There's no escaping it, and it's not always fun to talk about, but each of us in this room at some point in our lives could potentially be at risk for symptoms of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia."
Shapiro explained that the Silver Alert uses the reverse 911, or "CodeRED," system already implemented in the city to get the word out about the missing elder. In addition, a notification will be scrolled across the screen on local access stations run by NewTV.
Furthermore, the information about the missing person and a photograph are transmitted to computers in Newton Police cruisers to better assist officers in finding the person.
"You put all these pieces together and the Silver Alert speeds up the public notifcation process which can, in fact, save lives," Shapiro said.
But family members do not have to wait until that panic-stricken moment to sign up their loved one; at-risk residents are encouraged to sign up with the program now to have their information and photo entered into the database.
Shapiro said the advanced enrollment is important as it saves a good 15 to 20 minutes during the search process--time that is crucial when trying to find someone.
Even if the person has not wandered before, it is important to get those who are at risk in the system, Shapiro said.
Elder Affairs Officer Eric Rosenbaum said those who are interested in signing up for the free program can call the Newton Police Department or visit the department in person.
Rosenbaum will meet with the individual families to determine if their at-risk relative should be in the database. The system not only holds names and photographs, it also includes information such as birthdate, prescriptions taken and medical records.
Shapiro noted that the program comes at no cost to the taxpayer because the pieces--including the police personnel, reverse 911 system and cable access station--are already in place.
Gerald Flaherty of the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Association lauded the efforts of local officials and told the senior center crowd they are fortunate to be living in a community like Newton.
The Silver Alert system, Flaherty said, really "puts Newton ahead of the game."
In August, Gov. Deval Patrick visited the city after signing the Silver Alert Bill. Since then, Flaherty said Newton has "set the path for implementation of the bill."
In addition to promoting the new program at events in town, Rosenbaum, Shapiro as well as staff at NewTV worked to create a public service announcement about alert system, which will air on the local access station. (Video of PSA is attached to this article.)
Mayor Warren commended Shapiro and the police department for their efforts in implementing a system that is at the "forefront" of Silver Alerts across the state and country.
He also thanked Senior Services Director Jayne Colino as well as Alderman Allan Ciccone, chair of the Aldermen's Public Safety and Transportation Committee.
"We have to continually challenge ourselves to find ways to deliver services to people who are most vulnerable," Warren said. "I'm really proud of the effort Alderman Shapiro has made in getting Newton at the forefront and ensuring our most vulnerable citizens are protected."