Saturday, May 31, 2014

GIS Discussions at the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference 40th Anniversary

Beautiful UVA Campus!
"In commemoration of our 40th anniversary and the overwhelming dedication and commitment given by the conference for the past 40 years, we are hosting a celebration."

Don Ferguson and Eric Menendez leading a roundtable discussion on remote collaboration for Search Operations and Geographic Information Systems. Don has already experimented using ArcGIS Online and Wikispaces to assist in extended searches. 
Here at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA there have been some very productive discussions about incorporating GIS into SAR. More than just discussion here are some immediate actions items:

Define protocols for remote collaboration in the Region

Design a catalog of information products that can be requested by search managers ("It should be as simple to follow as a Chinese Food Menu") 

Agree on some basic standards of what is required to generate these information products

  • Assignment maps
  • Briefing maps
  • Minimum Essential Dataset packages
  • Analysis (e.g. Terrain models, Cell phone analysis, Spatially-enabled probabilities (POA / POD)) 

Construction of a region-wide trail network database

More discussions about emerging technology and how they fit in (Cell Phone Analysis, UAVs, etc).

The slides from my plenary talk are available for download from here.

This is the first time I have seen a volunteer community come together to discuss remote collaboration and incorporation into GIS as a platform. It is very impressive and I am hoping the GISCorps members in the region can step in to help.

Other great talking points include: 
  • Veterans can be extremely valuable in austere disaster response environments, especially if supported with GIS - Lourdes Tiglao, Team Rubicon
  • Search Theory will evolve with the use of GIS - Dr. Charles Twardy and Robert Koester
  • Stop referring to it as "Lost Person" incidents, rephrase as "missing person" incidents. This will help engage the Law Enforcement Community and see the SAR functions as a great asset. - A State SAR Coordinator
All in all, this is a great organization and I am very happy they invited me out to meet with them and share what the SARGIS community is working on. Thank you ASRC and BRMG for inviting me to this event!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MapSAR Training - Ft. Smith, AR

This training event was a success! GIS and Public Safety professionals from three adjacent states (MO, OK, AR) learned how to use GIS for Search and Rescue - but more importantly they were all in the same room together meeting face to face.

After dealing with some serious weather related obstacles during my trip (diverted to College Station and spending the night in Houston), I finally made it to Fort Smith. Luckily Mark, Marcus, and Caroline were ready to present the tutorial and get started without me.

On Day 1 we covered the Yosemite Search tutorial and helped everyone get familiar with the MapSAR interface. Once students had their initial setup configured they were off and running - making their first maps. Who knew unzipping folders could be so much fun?

On Day 2 - Wes Cleland presented a local fictional search scenario that would involve a multi-agency response and the students had to respond with MapSAR on their own. This reinforced what was taught on Day 1. We also covered the overall topic of using GIS for SAR with local media in attendance which was a great opportunity to do some outreach. 

Finally, in the afternoon Wes reviewed a recent missing aircraft / pilot search with a very personal and thoughtful tone. He explained some of the challenges they faced and what was learned during this process. ArcGIS online was used during this operation to collaborate / coordinate planning and operations - but not until the search was well underway.

This led to a great discussion about how to better prepare for search operations. All in attendance agreed a follow up meeting is needed to outline the core workflows (define search boundary, segment the map, make common maps available to general and command staff) and information products required for search operations. It is also important to draw commonalities with disaster response, such as the recent tornado in nearby Mayflower / Vilonia, Arkansas. For me, getting to see this in person was very compelling.

Key lessons learned:

1) Have incident templates and minimum essential datasets ready to go before the incident. This seems obvious but experiencing the time wasted in the process made this very clear.

2) We need to create a visual information product "menu" that non-GIS responders can choose from early on in search operations then order the resources needed to create them (investigators, experts, GIS staff). This will help prevent information overload or misuse of resources.

3) There is a great deal of potential for using cellular phone / tower for search operations - but a synthesis of how to use this information is not (yet) available to the community. 

I am sure those of you in attendance have your own thoughts and I'd love to hear them in the comments below.

Thank you to the students and their agencies, the Esri Disaster Respinse Program, the Esri St. Louis Refional Office, the University of Arkansas, the GISCorps, and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS for making this possible. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Search and Rescue GIS 2014 Eastern US Tour

2014 has already been a great year for WiSARGIS. The community has rallied around some common workflows and is always discussing cutting edge technology on the SARGIS Discussion Group. In addition the Mountain Rescue Association is showing leadership in the Community by beginning their first implementation of a geo-enabled mission collection system (more on that soon!).  

On Monday, I leave for Forth Smith Arkansas where the University will be hosting a cadre of MapSAR Instructors. Wes Cleland, Mark Hollingshead, Caroline Rose, and Marcus Kitchens will be teaching MapSAR to a class of GIS Professionals who support agencies throughout the "Tri-State" area (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri). This event is supported by the NAPSG Foundation and Esri. Also members of the GISCorps will be in attendance as well!

Then, on May 31st, the University of Virginia will be hosting the 40th Annual Meeting of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference and  Blue Ridge Mountain Group's 40th Anniversary event where I will present on the status and future of the SARGIS Community. This should be a great event in a region I have not spent nearly enough time in. 

After this, FDNY Fire Captain Steve Pollackov and I will present at The National Association For Search And Rescue and the Mountain Rescue Association National Conference (SARCON2014) in Woodcliff, New Jersey. I will be sitting the Command Post during the SAR Games as well, showing how GIS can be used for planning, operations, logistics, command and public information during an incident or training (more to follow!). I have not been back home in a while, it might be time for some real pizza.

This should be a great trip and I will be sure to highlight what I learn here on the blog. Then I will present on this at SARGIS6 in Dunsmuir, CA later in June. I hope to see some of you at these events so we can catch up. 

Special Thanks to Mamata Akella on the NPMap / ArcGIS Online integration!