Thursday, January 23, 2014

Search and Rescue GISCorps Team Members sworn in as Disaster Service Workers

Today history was made in Sacramento, CA!

Thanks to the hard work of the GISCorps and California Office of Emergency Services, members of the California GISCorps SARGIS pilot program have been sworn in as Disaster Service Workers (pending background and paperwork processing).

This means that the GISCorps members trained in MapSAR and other SARGIS tools can be called up as mutual aid resources by the State to help with missing person searches, recoveries, and any type of disaster where a GIS resource is needed. We will be discussing topics like standard training and qualifications, remote support, and equipment provisioning in future meetings. 

Don't forget the GISCorps can volunteer to help on project work as well, don't wait until there is a disaster! There is probably a member near you and their response area is worldwide.

A very special thank you to Lorri Peltz-Lewis (GISCorps / USFS), Matt Scharper (CalOES), Tom Patterson (Esri, retired), and the California OES GIS Team for making this possible. 

To find out more, see the California Disaster Service Worker Volunteer Program website.

So....which State will be next? How long until all 50 recognize the need for GIS in search and rescue operations? Let us know if you would like to see something similar in your State.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where should we have the 6th Annual SARGIS Meeting?

We need a Search and Rescue Team to help us host our 6th Annual Search and Rescue GIS Meeting.

Ideally it would be at a location that: 
  • Has a networked computer lab with +20 computers for MapSAR / IGT4SAR training (A University Campus or Training Center)
  • A meeting room with projector, high speed internet, and room for +30 people 
  • Accessible by airport and public transportation 
  • Tent camping nearby 
  • Within 30 miles of a microbrewery & a National Park site 
This map should help (zoom in to your area of interest for more local intel)

I can help organize the event, but need someone to take care of on-site logistics. For example, helping the IT department at a University setup computers for training (install software, test tutorials, etc). 
We could also consider finding a sponsor for the event once we know where it will be. 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

I think this year we will open up the event to a webcast for more events so those of you who cannot make it can still attend. 

Here is the agenda from last year.

Here are results as of 01/27/2014. 

This is based on 100 votes so far. I will leave the survey open until Friday - but it is looking like two locations will be needed, joined via web cast.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Search and Rescue GIS Resources for New Mexico

They are even making maps during the football game!!!
We are here at the MapSAR Training at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. The class had about 20-25 participants total and we kicked it off with a public colloquium on Friday night. Then on Saturday we walked through MapSAR tutorials using a missing person search scenario in Yosemite National Park. On Sunday we finished up the lessons and repeated them using local New Mexico data to reinforce the elements learned in the tutorial. The class had a great mix of SAR volunteers, GIS students, and some people who have done both SAR & GIS. 

So, because it went so well, I thought I would take a moment to document some resources for the students and those who could not make it today. 

Base Data
The best resource for data specific to New Mexico is RGIS, the New Mexico Geographic Information System Program, where you can browse and search for a diversity of datasets, as indicated in the figure on the right.  All data offered through RGIS are FREE.

The Boundaries folder for instance has Wilderness Boundary layers available for download. The Transportation folder contains datasets like the Continental Divide TrailVector datasets like these should be downloaded as shapefiles and added to ArcMap.

Aerial imagery is available in the Digital Orthophotography folder and elevation data (Digital Elevation Models) in the Elevation folder. For instance, here is a statewide 60m DEM. There are also 7.5' USGS Topographic maps available in the Topographic folder. Raster datasets like these come in a variety of data formats including .tif, .sid, etc. Read up on adding raster data to a map.

Just in case you need a refresher on vector vs raster....

Vector Data

A coordinate-based data model that represents geographic features as points, lines, and polygons. Each point feature is represented as a single coordinate pair, while line and polygon features are represented as ordered lists of vertices. Attributes are associated with each vector feature, as opposed to a raster data model, which associates attributes with grid cells. 

Raster Data

A spatial data model that defines space as an array of equally sized cells arranged in rows and columns, and composed of single or multiple bands. Each cell contains an attribute value and location coordinates. Unlike a vector structure, which stores coordinates explicitly, raster coordinates are contained in the ordering of the matrix. Groups of cells that share the same value represent the same type of geographic feature. 

Definitions from the GIS Dictionary

For more tips and tricks, see the chapter on creating a Minimum Essential Dataset for your response area, see the Using GIS for Wildland Search and Rescue eBook.

GIS Training  

Esri Training (
University Training

Help & Resources

Here are some resources for getting help with MapSAR, IGT4SAR, and ArcMap.
Discussion Topics
Here are some of the topics that came up during the class that we would like to open up to the community.

  • Integration of SAR Theory into GIS 
  • Assignment versus Segments
  • Making maps for mobile via pdf
  • Real-time GIS (Integration APRS, ArcGIS Online with Collector)
  • State-wide SAR Minimum Essential Dataset
  • Pre-planning Search Segments (see blog post)
  • Fast Basemaps (see blog post)
  • Beyond MapSAR (Analysis tools using DEM such as slope, viewshed, elevation profile, etc)
Thank you

Stay tuned...
  • The training materials will be posted as soon as we have incorporated feedback
  • We will use this as a template to help other instructors teach this in their own community
  • Teaming up with a local University has proven to be a great way to introduce GIS experts and SAR Teams!
Dont' forget to add your team to our map (lat/long)!

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