State's Silver Alert system to go live Friday

Gov. Scott Walker signs the Silver Alert bill into law in Green Bay, Friday, April 11, 2014. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)

GREEN BAY – Starting Friday, you could be hearing more about missing people in Wisconsin. The state's Silver Alert system goes into effect.

It's similar to the nationwide 'Amber Alert' system that sends out information about possibly endangered or abducted children. Messages are sent via email, text messages, faxes - even on digital billboards – and to broadcasters.

But this program is geared toward locating missing people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

The Silver Alert law passed with unanimous support in Madison and was signed by the governor this past April.

"When we created the Silver Alert system, we talked with many states that have very successful Silver Alert programs and we learned what we should do," said Joe Libowsky, the program's coordinator with the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.

Libowsky says about 30 other states have similar systems in place, but the criterion for issuing alerts varies.

"Do they have to be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's for a Silver Alert to be issued?” FOX 11’s Bill Miston asked Libowsky in a phone interview with FOX 11.

"No, no they do not," he said. “And one of the things that we hear in talking with other states is often times, people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia – they may not have a diagnosis.”

"It's estimated in Brown County – alone – that about three-thousand people suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's; 110,000 in the state. The Alzheimer's Association says 60-percent of those people will wander off – and it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'."

"It really becomes a safety issue,” said Kim Kinner, the executive director with the Alzheimer's Association Greater Wisconsin Chapter “Certainly for the person who wanders, but also for those caregivers and the family members that are worried about their loved one."

The law was spurred in part by and incident involving Claire Baeb and her husband Leo.

"My brain had malfunctioned. I mean – literally," said Claire Baeb in a previous interview with FOX 11.

Last year, the couple got lost while driving from northern Oconto County to Hobart. They were lost for 36 hours and found in West Bend. Leo died shortly after they were found.

The Alzheimer's Association says families shouldn't solely rely on the Silver Alert system, but be proactive.

Have an updated photo ready; be familiar with your loved one's life history, work experience and hobbies.

"If they wander, they can be found - typically - within about a one-and-a-half mile radius of where they live or were," said Kinner.