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Valpo man turns friend’s tragic death into a way to help others

Chris Hollar DeMotte hikes up hill snow-covered trail 8 IndianDunes State Park ChestertThursday Feb. 28 2013. Signs posted late last

Chris Hollar, of DeMotte, hikes up a hill on the snow-covered trail 8 at the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton Thursday Feb. 28, 2013. Signs, posted late last year on some of the trail markers, allow 911 callers to give exact locations in case of emergency. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 2, 2013 6:16AM



In January 2012, a friend of William Pauley’s died of a massive heart attack while he was running on the trails at Indiana Dunes State Park.

The people with Pauley’s friend couldn’t give first responders an exact location of where they were on the trail. While his friend would have died anyway, the tragedy spurred Pauley to action.

“About two weeks after he died, I decided, that’s terrible. We’ve got to do something,” said Pauley, of Valparaiso, an avid runner himself.

Since then, Pauley has worked with the state park and Porter County Central Communications to get locator signs placed in the park, which coordinate with maps used by the county’s 911 system.

Pauley is already in talks to have similar signs placed in Porter County parks, as well as those in Portage and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On Thursday, he met with representatives from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to expand the effort to surrounding counties.

Several of the people at the meeting expressed interest in the project, including the 911 director for LaPorte County, Pauley said.

“It was well received by everyone there,” he said.

Thirty of the bright yellow signs went up in the state park at the end of the year, which is the off-season for much of the activity at the park but also gives central communications, which runs the county’s 911 dispatch, the opportunity to get a feel for how the program will work, said John Jokantas, director of central communications.

“The way people should think of these is as mile markers on the interstate,” he said.

The numbered signs, which also offer the park’s non-emergency phone number, are plotted on the maps for dispatch, so if someone gives a sign number to a dispatcher, their location will pop up.

The signs are spread out through the state park, mostly along trails but also at shelters where people congregate, said the park’s property manager, Brandt Baughman. There are no signs on the beach because the pavilion provides a good landmark.

He, too, said having the signs in place during the off-season is an advantage, and allows the park staff to modify their locations if need be. The park has another five signs in reserve.

Each park that decides to put up the signs has to pay for them. Baughman ordered the signs through the state’s Prison Enterprise Network, through the Indiana Department of Correction. The custom-made signs cost $393, and Baughman said the park spent another $110 on posts and hardware.

The effort is already paying off. While the park hasn’t gotten any emergency calls, it has received non-emergency calls from people trying to find their way back from a trail to a parking lot, Baughman said.

As the weather warms up and more people stop by the state park, the signs will get their real test, something that wouldn’t have happened without Pauley’s effort.

“Tragedy leads to something great accomplished,” Jokantas said.



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