A work break stroll outdoors on a brisk spring day turned into the rescue of an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease and a lifesaving award for a system operator at a Georgia electric cooperative.
Coweta-Fayette EMC’s Jennifer Martin was honored by Georgia EMC with its Life Saving Award late last year for helping reunite the man with his family after they reported him missing. Martin alerted local law enforcement after spotting the man wandering near a district office. She was one of eight electric co-op employees to receive the award from the statewide association for actions “instrumental in rescuing someone from grave and immediate danger.”
“I was glad that I was the one to see him and say something,” said Martin, a 25-year employee of the Palmetto-based co-op. “It’s a great reminder that we should always be aware of our surroundings.”
Martin was taking a break from filling in at the customer service desk at the co-op’s district office in Fayetteville last spring when she noticed a man “looking disoriented” emerge from the woods outside the building.
“I thought maybe he came from a construction site down the road because he was wearing a blue jumpsuit, or coveralls, and work boots.”
Still, “it seemed kind of odd, because that’s not something you see every day, someone coming out of the woods,” she said.
Martin returned indoors and reported the sighting to Fayette County Sheriff Sgt. Chris Robison, the on-duty security guard that day. But by the time they went back outside, the man was gone.
About an hour later, Martin saw him twice more, both times walking alongside a busy four-lane highway.
“I was looking out the window. ‘There he is again. He needs to be careful, or he’s going to get hit,’ I said to myself. He was walking east towards the hospital and then he went west, away from the hospital.”
Martin notified Robison, who moved the man to safety and requested backup police assistance, including from the City of Fayetteville, where a missing person report had been filed. Eventually, police reunited the man with his family in South Carolina.
Martin said the man “had been admitted to the local hospital after being found once before, and he somehow managed to get out and wasn’t sure where he was.”
Martin’s involvement may have prevented a tragic outcome.
“You hear about elderly people with Alzheimer’s found dead in a pond, and there’s a lake right behind those woods,” she said. “This could have been another statistic. I was in the right place at the right time to reunite him with his family. I said something, and I am so grateful.”
Co-op CEO Chris Stephens said he was proud of Martin’s awareness and her actions in helping save the man’s life.
“As an employee of an electric utility, it is part of our DNA that we are always conscious of our surroundings and looking out for each other’s safety.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.