Saturday, March 21, 2015

Discussion: GIS and Institutional Knowledge in Search and Rescue

Article: Meet Philly’s “Dr. House” of Missing Persons

I just read a short opinion piece in about Mark G. Hopkins, the Search and Rescue Chief of Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue. Mark sounds a lot like many "SAR Czars" I have met in my life. He's been active for 20 years and he is the go-to person for his local police agency when someone goes missing. This is not because he is easy to work with, but because he cares and knows how to run a search operation.

In this article he makes a call for action - to establish "a base level system that is applied equally to all missing persons". He even wrote to the City Mayor. However, towards the end of the article he states that he will be retiring soon. This is well-deserved for him, but I wonder how his team will cope. Are they planning for his transition?

How many of you know someone like this? When it comes to planning a search, does your SAR Chief embrace the use of GIS for mapping, gut-instinct alone, or a little bit of both? How are you capturing their spatial knowledge before they retire? 

I think the integration of institutional knowledge and GIS is a very important issue to discuss, before all the wise old sages are all gone...

If you are interested here is one systematic (but not always very practical) approach to document historical information from from Yosemite National Park case incident reports: Georeferencing Incidents from Locality Descriptions and its Applications 

However, how can we use GIS to create digital records of institutional knowledge. When someone goes missing from x1,y1 place they are usually found within x2,y2 region because of conditions a,b,c? 

Experimenting with Wacom screens to capture institutional knowledge in ArcGIS, circa. 2009

This is not to say we can create "auto-magical" algorithms to predict where missing persons are, but can we capture the thought process and mental maps of experienced SAR professionals so we can teach the next generation of leaders?

Read the article and then please comment below