Monday, June 23, 2014

#SARGIS6 Discussion and Report

This blog post highlights the activities and topics covered in the 6th Annual Search and Rescue GIS Meeting. The meeting was held simultaneously in Dunsmuir, California and Morgantown, West Virginia. The final agenda can be found here:

MapSAR Training - Thursday and Friday

We kicked off the week on Thursday morning at the Dunsmuir High School with the Yosemite ("Clark SAR") Tutorial. There were both GIS Professionals and SAR Professionals (most with little or no GIS experience) in the room. The students were able to complete the tutorial in one day and get through the basics of MapSAR. Excellent instruction was provided by Jared Doke, Caroline Rose, Rick Laing, and Dave Hansen from the GISCorps. On Friday we then started from scratch and launched MapSAR to respond to a fictional scenario on Mount Shasta, the "Hunter SAR". 

Friday Evening

After some free time to check out the town of Dunsmuir and an open house at FireWhat Headquarters we went to the theater for a keynote address on WiSAR GIS Research and an introduction to the FireWhat Team. This was followed by some live music, dessert, and a raffle on top of the Dunsmuir Hotel rooftop. 


Beautiful Mount Shasta was a great backdrop for our meeting.

For the rest of the conference we spent time up at the Mount Shasta Ski Park after a great interpretive talk from Nick Meyers, Mount Shasta Ranger. On Saturday Morning we received a MapSAR update from Jon Pedder and were introduced to the Antris Registry by Kaila Beattie. Then we heard some excellent lightning talks:
  • Who are the GISCorps? Dave Hansen
  • Using GIS for Kansas USAR Jared Doke
  • Why don’t we all just use GIS? Caroline Rose 
  • Remote Support for WiSAR Don Ferguson
  • Using cell phone analysis for WiSAR George Durkee
In the afternoon - we used our "Hunter SAR" scenario to try out some new technology in conjunction with MapSAR. We published our incident data to an ArcGIS Online web map and launched the Collector for ArcGIS for mobile data collection. We also used DeLorme inReach devices for situational awareness in the field - we always knew the location of our teams. 

Finally - we tied all of this information together using the Operations Dashboard to track team status and instantly view photos of clues from the field. This is the first time we have tried this integration and it worked quite well. We still used the paper maps from MapSAR as a fail-safe method to make sure teams had the information they needed in the field. 

For free training on this new technology:
Finally, we finished off the meetings with presentations:
Both days of the meeting were shared via webcast with SARGIS East. Despite technical difficulties most of the presentations were recorded and available (I am working on converting these videos into a viewable format right now).

What did we learn? What's next?

  1. It is time to present what the SARGIS community has to offer to agencies that have jurisdiction, not just the volunteers
  2. We need to simplify deployment of MapSAR / IGT4SAR workflows for Day I of operations
  3. We need to move MapSAR / IGT4SAR to one code-sharing framework (GitHub)
  4. How do we implement remote support procedures?
  5. Should the WiSAR GIS group become a non-profit (5013c) organization?
  6. UAV/S have a role in WiSAR - but it is yet to be determined how they can be used effectively, we need to do more research

We are looking forward to SARGIS7 and potential locations have already been discussed (Simon Fraser University, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Estes Park, Dunsmuir, CA).

Look for updates from SARGIS East soon as well.

Please continue the discussion or ask followup questions from the presenters on the SARGIS Discussion Group.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Search and Rescue GIS at #SARCON2014

The last stop of my Eastern US tour brought me to New Jersey for the MRA / NASAR 2014 Search and Rescue Conference. New Jersey Search and Rescue are pioneers in search operation mapping and communication - so this was the perfect place to talk about the importance of GIS in wildland search and rescue. The conference was very well run and a great time to connect with friends and learn more about what others are doing.

Don Ferguson gave an excellent talk about minimum essential data for situational awareness and spatial analysis during search operations. He also showed the power of spatial analysis, such as travel cost modeling for increasing your theoretical probability of area

Captain Pollackov from FDNY GIS provided a detailed account of how GIS was used for Hurricane Sandy and the Super Bowl, as well as a sneak preview of how FDNY will be using GIS in the future. Our friends at ICE-SAR were very impressed. 

Jon, Jennifer, Jason, Don, Cole and myself were extremely busy at the Esri booth providing mini training sessions to old friends, but also many MRA and NASAR Teams that have not begun implementing GIS into their operations. I also presented and discussed the MRA Mission data collection system using ArcGIS Online. Here is a link to the training videos if you have not seen them already. 

Finally, during the SAR Games activities on Friday, we teamed up with our friends at DeLorme to test the integration of InReach, Collector for ArcGIS, and the Operations Dashboard for real-time tracking and operational mapping. We showed this on live maps in both the Hilton command post and remote command post at High Point State Park. During this time I also hung out with the Alpha SAR Team and discussed the future of GIS in their operations.  

Overall, here is what I learned this year at SARCON2014:

1) The common theme across the Arkansas SAR, ASRC, MRA, and NASAR communities is the concept of remote support for search operations. 
2) Disconnected capabilities are a must - you must be able to support your operation with no internet access for at least 72 hours. However, there are creative ways to leverage support from outside the command post...
3) In general, little work has been done using GIS outside of search operations. I have not spoken with a single team that has incorporated GIS into preventative search and rescue (PSAR) or rescue response (optimal siting of resources, suitability analysis, etc). 

I look forward to giving a more detailed report at the SARGIS6 Meeting in a few weeks!

ps beware of the Alaskan Embassy and anything offered to you in another language.