Officers from the Reston District Station said the 77-year-old woman, who suffers from dementia, walked away from the 9700 block of Georgetown Pike near Great Falls about 5:30 p.m., said police spokeswoman Lucy Caldewell.
Police patrols, including a bloodhound, searched for several hours, but were unsuccessful. About 10 p.m., they enlisted the Office of Emergency Management, which placed a reverse 911 call to homes in the Reston-Great Falls area.
Caldwell said some 22,000 homes with landlines within a five-mile radius of Georgetown Pike received calls.
“Immediately, dispatch phones rang with reported sightings of the missing woman,” Caldwell said. “Finally, after six hours of searching, thanks to a thoughtful resident that received the reverse 911 call, the woman was located on a top floor parking garage stairwell at Reston Town Center at 11:45 p.m. She was ushered to warmth and safety at the Reston Police Station. ”
Caldwell said some residents were upset at receiving the call at the late hour.
“Due to the nature of the circumstance (critical missing person — life threatening emergency) the decision was made to implement reverse 911,” she said. Reverse 911 is not something residents sign up for. In emergencies, these landline numbers are provided to public safety personnel and are to be used only in life-threatening/urgent situations, she added.