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.


  1. Paul, the webcast recordings require a signin. Is that an Adobe one or ESRI?

  2. It looks like I have to convert these before anyone can access them - I will work on this right now. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Paul, thank you so much for a truly inspiring workshop on the use of GIS for search and rescue work. I came to the training with very little background in GIS, but I left with enough self-confidence and inspiration to begin using ArcGIS in my work as a geologist. I've also begun gathering various data layers I can use in my occasional search and rescue work as a ski patroller. Please keep me posted about other trainings you may be offering, thanks again. Greg Aitken, Eugene, Oregon