Introduction - GIS User for Search & Rescue

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02-06-2012 01:55 PM
New Contributor
Greetings.  Been an ESRI/GIS user for a couple years and an Emergency Services Forum user for many years.  This is my first time on a GIS Forum site, but since that is where my life is heading, thought I might come play in this pool.

Anyway, I have read a number of threads and saw that several members of this forum are using GIS in Search & Rescue.  If there is anyone who can provide some insight and suggestions into how they use GIS for SAR (or Incident Response/Management in general), I would love to pick some brains.

I am an 11 year veteran of Emergency Services in California.  I have worked Ambulance, First Response, Swiftwater Rescue, Rope Rescue, Helicopter Rescue/Medical, and Ground Search.  Recently I find myself being "pushed" toward the Emergency Management side of things.  In 2010 GIS stated making inroads into our SAR Team and I found myself on the front line, fighting old-timer notions about technology and trying to implement GIS as a mainstay of Incident Mitigation.  It has been a slow process, with very few interested in learning about it, using it, or funding it.

But I am 100% invested in it.  As a result of my use of GIS in SAR I recently started to go back to college in an effort to get a degree in GIS (the local college has such a program which after 35 units I have holding a 3.6 GPA).  I am using GIS routinely at college and for SAR, having successfully utilized GIS on several Wilderness Searches and Swiftwater Recoveries.  Now I am in the process of making a HUGE leap.  The college has expressed an interest in collaborating with SAR, sending GIS students to us for "work experience" (under the leadership of properly certified and experience Incident Managers).  My SAR Team's new leadership is interested to devoting some time, energy, and money to get GIS implemented.  I have some grant funding lined up to move us forward.  Hopefully, by summer I should have a newly created "Incident Management and Mapping Team"... at least that is my hope.

For the foreseeable future I am working with several programs for the sake of simplicity: ArcExplorer, Nat GEO Topo, DNR Garmin, and a hodgepodge of other related applications.  We tried CIMMS, but that didn't pan out.  I have Arc10, but with so few on my SAR Members GIS-savy, am not integrating it to heavily yet.  Grant money should provide us with a decent amount of new hardware in the near future.

I may have put myself too deep into this.  But, as I try to move forward in using GIS for SAR (and maybe Emergency Management in general), any suggestions or ideas from the experienced folks here?  Any websites, books, programs, etc I should look into?  Anyone have any experience with this?

Thanx for any insight.
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New Contributor III
MtnResQ,

Esri has been hard at work supporting a blossoming SAR-GIS user community over the past three years. Right now there a core group of Users called 'MapSAR' we are supporting as they put together ArcGIS Desktop templates, best practices material, and training sessions to support a variety of SAR-GIS functions. The MapSAR template has the following customized capabilities and will add more features over time:

1.     Map production templates (Data driven pages and map templates)

2.     Custom GPS data download tools (GPX file importer)

3.     An Operational Layer geodatabase (Joined and related tables) with symbology

4.     Search area buffer tool (Buffer Analysis)

Of course, since SAR is inherently spatial, there are numerous spatial analyses (cross-country mobility modeling, network analysis, helicopter landing models, probability) thatour Users and Esri are working towards. For more information please see our blog post if you have not already and stay tuned-in to the Esri Public Safety Resource Center in 2012.

Thanks for posting!

Sincerely,
Paul Doherty

Public Safety Technology Specialist
pdoherty@esri.com | USNG 11SMT8196368376
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New Contributor II
Jonathan,

Check out the video "Life Saving Mapshttp://www.esri.com/industries/public-safety/fire-rescue-ems/demos.html
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MVP Esteemed Contributor
You might also take a look at the typical Incident Command System for wild land fire; it seems to me that several years ago a true GIS position was incorporated into it.  Such an approach could/would easily be incorporated for SAR. 

A number of years ago I was producing map books of local water ways that were set up on a grid based on river miles; these were especially handy for swift water rescue during run off season; working at a 9-1-1 call center, I distributed the books to call takers/dispatchers along with the SWR teams; everybody is literally on the same page.  At the time I was using ArcPublisher & ArcReader, but ArcGIS Server would be a cool route to take now.

Finally, browse through some back issues of Arc User (online); friend and colleague Mike Price with ESRI has published some pretty cool work you might be interested in.

Best of luck to you!
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New Contributor
MtnResQ,

Esri has been hard at work supporting a blossoming SAR-GIS user community over the past three years. Right now there a core group of Users called 'MapSAR' we are supporting as they put together ArcGIS Desktop templates, best practices material, and training sessions to support a variety of SAR-GIS functions. The MapSAR template has the following customized capabilities and will add more features over time:

1.     Map production templates (Data driven pages and map templates)

2.     Custom GPS data download tools (GPX file importer)

3.     An Operational Layer geodatabase (Joined and related tables) with symbology

4.     Search area buffer tool (Buffer Analysis)

Of course, since SAR is inherently spatial, there are numerous spatial analyses (cross-country mobility modeling, network analysis, helicopter landing models, probability) thatour Users and Esri are working towards. For more information please see our blog post if you have not already and stay tuned-in to the Esri Public Safety Resource Center in 2012.

Thanks for posting!

Sincerely,
Paul Doherty

Public Safety Technology Specialist
pdoherty@esri.com | USNG 11SMT8196368376


Thanx.  I actually am a little familiar with MapSAR.  George lives nearby and has been a resource in my efforts.  I just got an e-mail form him actually, like 4 hours ago.  He also got gave me an early version of "Best Practices" to review.  Had some problems with an earlier version of MapSAR, but am eagerly waiting to see updated versions.  Still not sure if it will be too complicated for my membership, but I am personally very interested.

I'll take a look at that site (hadn't seen it yet) and will eagerly await anything new that comes down the line.  THANX!!!

Jonathan,

Check out the video "Life Saving Mapshttp://www.esri.com/industries/public-safety/fire-rescue-ems/demos.html


I'll be taking a look at that tonight.  I noted that the first video was Sierra Madre; I've been following them and their use of GIS for some time.  Thanx for the link.

You might also take a look at the typical Incident Command System for wild land fire; it seems to me that several years ago a true GIS position was incorporated into it.  Such an approach could/would easily be incorporated for SAR. 

A number of years ago I was producing map books of local water ways that were set up on a grid based on river miles; these were especially handy for swift water rescue during run off season; working at a 9-1-1 call center, I distributed the books to call takers/dispatchers along with the SWR teams; everybody is literally on the same page.  At the time I was using ArcPublisher & ArcReader, but ArcGIS Server would be a cool route to take now.

Finally, browse through some back issues of Arc User (online); friend and colleague Mike Price with ESRI has published some pretty cool work you might be interested in.

Best of luck to you!


ICS is religion for me; seriously.  Traditionally, GIS should fall under the Planning Section, but I have seen it used as part of the Operations and Logistics Sections, especially in the realm of real-time tracking (such as with GeoPros) or establishing facilities (such as LZs, ICP, etc.)

I have yet to look seriously into pre-planning for Swiftwater with GIS; that is something I would like to explore as time goes on.  I am currently working on some Technical Rope Rescue pre-planning using some basic slope analysis and county road data to establish jurisdictional assignment and response times.

I will do a search for back issue.  For better or worse, GIS seems to be in my future and with my background in Emergency Services, I am very interested in anything I can get my hands on when it comes to using GIS in this field.  Thanx for the suggestion



THANX ALL!!!
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New Contributor III
Hi Jonathon...

You may also be interested in the slides I put together regarding the next generation of MapSAR

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/45911854/AppOfGIS2WSAR.pdf

This includes several analytical tools and the application of search theory to help track search effectiveness (such as cumulative POA, POS, etc).  Also added the ability to auto-generate task assignment forms for field teams directly from features such as search segment.

There is a lot of potential for expanding the role of GIS in SAR and I would encourage your involvement.

cheers,
Don Ferguson
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