Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Resources from #SARGIS8 now available!

From November 14th through the 16th, 2016 the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation brought together more than 75 of the Nation’s Search & Rescue (SAR) leaders and GIS professionals for the 8th annual Search & Rescue GIS Workshop. 

The content available should be of interest to anyone interested in maps, GIS, public safety, or search and rescue so please do share.

To see the website with full links to the agenda and presentation go to:

To access our SARGIS Basic Training Website go to: 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Are You Ready For #SARGIS8?

The National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation's Search & Rescue GIS Working Group is hosting the 8th Annual SARGIS Workshop and Meeting on November 14th-16th, 2016.

Cost - Free! **Space is limited** Training and workshop materials will be provided at no cost.

Location - USGS: 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, Reston, VA 20192 

What is it about?
SARGIS8 will focus on the capabilities and best practices for Search & Rescue and geospatial technologies with 2 days of hands-on training. 

  • Day 1: Monday - Plenary for SAR and GIS practitioners: Keynotes, presentations, & panel discussions (space is limited to 120 participants) 
  • Day 2: Tuesday - Two tracks of technical GIS training (Basic/Web GIS & Advanced/Desktop GIS - space is limited to 60 participants)
  • Day 3: Wednesday - Two tracks of technical GIS training, culminating in a joint table-top exercise (space is limited to 60 participants)
Who should attend?
Search and Rescue Personnel (paid and unpaid) who want to know more about GIS for SAR
GIS technical professionals & staff that currently support SAR missions and/or are interested in learning how they can help SAR teams
Other Public Safety Operators, Decision makers, & Policy makers

Why Participate?
Join leading local, state, and Federal public safety agencies that are charting new ground for how GIS can be applied to missing person incidents.

Go to this Registration Page for more details and to lock in your place at this event. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

SpatiaLABS for WiSAR Release

Four new SpatiaLABS are now available using Search and Rescue in Yosemite National Park as their topic. These are FREE and ideal for beginners to geographic information systems (GIS), search and rescue professionals, or even GIS Specialists who are new to ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS Online

In the first of these four labs, you will use search and rescue incident locations to create an interactive web map and web mapping application in ArcGIS Online to explore the distribution of incidents in Yosemite National Park.  
Click here to try the web mapping application created in the exercise.

In the second lab, you will open a map project in ArcGIS Pro and create assignment maps for the emergency search operations.  

In the third lab, you will map where searchers have been deployed and what they have found.  

In the fourth lab, you will create a “clue log” that can be edited anywhere and with any device.
Click here to try the Clue Log application.

In order to try these tutorials you will need access to ArcGIS. First of all, if you work for a government agency or are a University Student, you most likely have access to ArcGIS so check with your IT or GIS Administrator. If not, here are some other options:

  1. Start a free 60-day trial
  2. Join the nonprofit organization program (Most SAR Teams qualify) 
  3. ArcGIS for Personal Use 
For University instructors - SpatiaLABS are designed to freely modified to fit your needs. 

"You'll find instructional materials in Microsoft Word and other common formats. Go ahead, change or add self-assessment questions, tweak the context for the analysis, rework the lab to use local data. Customize SpatiaLABS to suit your non-commercial needs." 

Special thanks to the SpatiaLABS team and Joe Kerski for his post on these SpatiaLABS

Thursday, June 16, 2016

MRA Mapping Hangout #5 - Snap2Map

This month we had some audio issues with our Google Hangout, but I did go back and record my Snap2Map Demonstration embedded below. 

Snap2Map is a really simple way to make a map with interactive geo-tagged photos. This can be used for a wide variety of applications. For SAR the use-case we are exploring with the YSAR Tauranga is using the Map Tour to create SAR PrePlans. A Map Tour could include photos and videos to highlight:
  • Hazards in an area 
  • Landing zones for helicopters 
  • Missing "decision points" on a trail
  • Any intelligence that you would like to capture with a map and photo!

Here is the free Snap2Map Tutorial by Jennifer Lentz if you would like to get started. It walks you through the following steps. 
  1. setting up and logging into an ArcGIS Online (AGOL) account
  2. downloading Esri's free Snap2Map app (available for free on Android and Apple-based smart devices)
  3. downloading a GPS tracking app (optional)
  4. Connecting your Snap2Map app to your organization's AGOL account
  5. Selecting the geo-tagged photos you'd like included in your story map, and publishing them to the story map through the Snap2Map app
  6. Editing your story map on a computer, including changing the basemap, color scheme, etc.
  7. saving the story map
  8. editing the information provided in the "details" page of the Web Map, including change the thumbnail image, and sharing preferences
  9. adding tracking data to your story map (optional)
  10. viewing the finished Story Map 

Thank you to YSAR Tauranga for the inspiration - I look forward to seeing your end product and seeing if any Mountain Rescue Association Teams pick this up and try it out. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cell Phones and SAR - Browser-based Location Apps

This article is a quick summary of a browser-based location applications that have been discussed on the Using GIS in SAR Discussion Group

Example Cell Phone Forensics Decision Tree, George Durkee - Operational Guide

These are free apps that can be used to locate persons that need help, are responsive, and can access the network - even with a fairly limited connection (using SMS).  It is a good idea to get familiar with all four as they can be used in different circumstances.

CellGPS (Eric Menendez @ericrmenendez)

Cellular device geolocation web app powered by Twilio, also on GitHub cell-gps. This app is very simple. It basically sends a text message to a cell phone, requests to activate GPS, then sends maps of coordinates of SMS reply. Try it!
  1. A SAR Team member should login from a PC browser (as a Guest) at 
  2. Enter a phone number and short message. Once the person receives the text message and clicks on the link - the coordinates and accuracy will be sent to the admin console.
  3. Go the admin console and click on the coordinates under the Location column. 

FindMeSAR (Joseph Elfelt @MappingSupport)

"Any 911 dispatcher can ask a wireless caller to browse to "", open that web page and soon read off their coordinates usually with a 10 meter or better location accuracy."

The person who needs help has to be told by voice or text to browse to and might need to give permission for their browser or the app to use location services.  If the user cannot get online with their browser, then the app will not work.

The “Next format” button cycles through four coordinate formats including USNG (same as MGRS).  Each coordinate format has a different colored screen.

The app continuously asks the API for the user’s location.  The first location displayed will likely have a high accuracy.  If the user is outside or even next to a window, then in well under a minute the accuracy value will usually be 10 meters or less.

The person who needs help has to read or text the coordinates and accuracy to whoever is receiving their information.

There is more documentation at: (Michael Coyle @Michael_F_Coyle)

"Free" mode: users can go to the web site, and generate an URL. You text the URL to the lost person. The web page loads, determines the location, and sends you the location via email.

"Advanced" mode:
  • Agency signs in and creates a new request. Form auto-fills details and includes a field to reference a unique ID for the request.
  • Agency sends text to subject via the web (back end is Twilio)
  • Agency monitors the request on the monitor page
  • When subject loads the web page, location is "pushed" to the monitoring page. 
    •    Location displays on google maps
    •    Page "pings"
    •    Estimated error displayed
    •    Coordinates in Lat/Lon and UTM
    •    Can download GPX / KML
  • Send and receive SMS with subjects
  • SMS log with subjects


"SARLOC has been around since 2011. It has been used by many teams around the world but is mainly used in the UK.

In the UK we use a program called MRMap ( to track team members radios which have a GPS in the handset. Each radio has a unique ID."

SARLOC uses the web browsers geolocation API to attempt to get the phones position.

SARLOC can be activated in three ways.

  1. The team send a link to the LostPer with a radio ID as a parameter. When the user clicks on the link, the radio ID gets added to an online database with its location and it appears on the MRMap screen
  2. MRMap can make a web call to SARLOC passing in a radio ID. SARLOC then generate a unique token and sends an SMS to the LostPer. When SARLOC gets the position back, it retrieves the radio ID associated with the unique token and adds it to the online database when MRMap can display it from.
  3. Where the MRT does not have internet access, the team can send an SMS to a virtual ‘phone number provided by the SMS gateway provider (In our case this is WorldText) The provider calls a SARLOC URL and SARLOC sends the SMS to the LostPer. When SARLOC gets the position it sends it back to the MRT as a text message. therefore they do not need internet access.

Russ Hore has a worldwide version you can test with.

The LostPer needs to click on the following URL;

After the MYID= the MRT need to add something unique to them such as PaulDoherty_2016_06_01

When the LostPer click on the link, the location can be seen at;

Fixes at this URL are removed after 72 hours. To see historical hits use;

Having Trouble? 

If you run into any issues, consider the device's browser settings (Help for Chrome / Android and Safari / Apple). 

Remember these are not "apps" you download onto your PC or Mobile Device, they are websites with special capabilities. Therefore, bookmark or add shortcuts to your home screen.

Key Message

(By Joseph Elfelt)

"It is likely that no one app will always be best suited for all circumstances.  I invite everyone to take a look at these apps and get a sense for what they do and how they do it.  Then when a SAR mission comes along you will be able to make a well-informed choice as to whether any of these apps will be helpful.

All three apps use the same browser geolocation API.  That API uses the cell phone’s location services to obtain (1) latitude longitude coordinates in decimal degrees and (2) accuracy in meters.  If you draw a circle at the coordinate and use the accuracy value for the radius then the specification says there is supposed to be a 95% likelihood that the cell phone is inside that circle." 

For documentation on that API see:

Cell Phone Forensic Workflows for SAR
Finally, George Durkee of Columbia College have put together the "Operational Guide to Cell Phones for SAR" a living document that should be extremely helpful for SAR Teams in the coming months. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

MRA Mapping Hangout #4

This week we gave an update on the MRA Mission Data Portal. So far, 251 Missions entered for 2016!

Then we moved on to the Map of the Month: Severe Weather Public Information Map from Esri Disaster Response Program.

The tutorial this month described how to create a Clue Log Geoform web mapping application. You can access the tutorial from the MRA Mapping homepage.

Finally, we heard from new MRA Mapping Volunteer Morgan Moe on the Mountain Med Online ( and how you can get access to the FREE Map and Compass Navigation 101 Online Course.

If you could not make it, the video is embedded and linked below. You can follow MRA Mapping to view archived videos or stay up to date on future events (Mapping Hangouts are the 2nd Tuesdays of the Month). 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

MRA Mapping Hangout #3

This week we held another MRA Mapping Hangout that covered a quick update on the MRA Mission Data Portal, talked about what is new on the portal including a new tutorial, and then we heard from Kaila Beattie from Antris. 

Antris is a safety solution designed to protect individuals who live demanding lifestyles and organizations with teams of work-alone employees. It communicates with your mobile phone or GPS device to monitor your safety and automatically notifies the necessary people of a user’s trip progress. 

The team at Antris is very interested in helping SAR Teams with both their Operations and Preventative Search and Rescue outreach. They have been very responsive to feedback and have added new features recently like off-road routing and a disconnected "park-mode". Finally, the announce a new partnership with the National Association For Search and Rescue.

If you would like to know more check out their free solution Antris on the App Stores and contact them directly if you have feedback or questions. 

If you missed it, watch the video below on YouTube. 

This month we also featured a "Map of the Month" - a cell phone coverage map and you can check this out below. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Map Your GPS Data and Elevation Profile

Today I put together a quick ArcGIS Online tutorial on how to map GPS data and make an elevation profile web app. Feel to free to download and try it out, it is pretty simple and a good introduction into making web apps with no programming. If you are a developer, here is the code on GitHub.

This web app can be a very useful tool for planning your own hike, quickly reviewing field team data, and as a preventative search and rescue tool for letting the public see the elevation change on any given hike. 

Download the Tutorial 

Try the App:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

MRA Mapping Hangout #2

Below is the 2nd MRA Mapping Hangout recording (there was an audio issue during the first 9 minutes so it is being clipped out). George Durkee and Eric Menendez presented "Understanding and Evaluating GPS Derived Data from Cell Phones and other Gizmos". 

This was a treasure chest of valuable information on the topic, I hope you enjoy it and please post comments below. 

Here are some resources from the presentation. 
This web app provides the ability to prompt a recipient to share his/her location via a text message sent to his/her mobile phone containing a URL link. By tapping the link, the recipient permits the phone to send its current location as determined by the location services enabled on the device.
  • USNG App - 
  • Operational Guide to Cell Phones -

Follow the MRA Mapping G+ page for updates on the next event!

Friday, February 19, 2016

WiSAR Capability and Readiness Assessment Tool

The NAPSG Foundation Search and Rescue Working Group (SARWG) has completed an update to the Capability and Readiness Assessment Tool (CARAT)

What is CARAT? The Capability and Readiness Assessment Tool (CARAT) is a tool created by NAPSG Foundation.  It is designed to serve as a roadmap for public safety officials and GIS practitioners interested in learning how GIS can be applied to the public safety mission and/or in building GIS to support their agencies’ work.

Here is the direct link to the WiSAR CARAT Tool:

This website provides links to the qualifications and tools that can be used by SAR Teams to understand what geographic information systems have to offer. 

Here are some of the tools listed under 'Crawl'. All of the tools indexed under CARAT can be found in this Group

Here is a screenshot of qualifications for Field Data Entry Technician from NAPSG Foundation's Qualification and Credentialing Website.

We are hoping for some constructive feedback in the coming weeks so we can make improvements to the site and generate ideas for training to help SAR Teams get running with GIS for SAR. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

MRA Mapping Hangout #1

The NAPSG Foundation and the Mountain Rescue Association have partnered up to do a "Mapping Hangout" once per month to discuss the MRA Mapping Portal. For more information on the MRA Mapping Portal, see this recent webcast from the PMI Webinar Series.

In this Mapping Hangout we reviewed how to use the MRA Mission Data Portal and covered a special topic - How To Make A Public MapYou can download the tutorial here:

The first Hangout had a technical glitch and did not broadcast, so here is a shorter version I recorded alone immediately after.

Below is a simple example of an embedded map from this tutorial.

And here is a web mapping application using the Public Information Map template, created by Jon Pedder from Sierra Madre SAR.