CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It only takes a few seconds for vulnerable loved ones to wander off from home, and with winter coming up, those seconds could mean life or death.

In the past week, several elderly adults wandered off from Charlotte to Lincoln County, which triggered law enforcement searches.

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Lincoln County Sheriff's deputy Dylan Houser said families need to plan well in advance in case an adult or child with cognitive impairments goes missing.

He suggested families use child-safe door locks or locks that emit a noise when a door is opened to prevent relatives from easily wandering off.

"It provides peace of mind for the families and also enables us to find them quicker," Deputy Houser said.

He said tracking devices from the non-profit Project Life Saver have made searches more efficient.

"We have particular devices that detect this radio signal that are in specially-trained officers vehicles," Dep. Houser said.

He suggested families should provide their local first responders with basic information and an updated photo of their vulnerable loved one, and they should place an ID on their loved one that they won't easily lose.