Tuesday, January 2, 2018


On November 6-8, 2017, NAPSG Foundation’s Search & Rescue GIS Working Group gathered with more than 50 Search & Rescue (SAR) leaders and GIS responders at the Esri Office in Broomfield, Colorado, for the highly anticipated 9th Annual Search & Rescue GIS Workshop

All resources (training, presentations, videos, etc.) have been made available here from the NAPSG Foundation website: SARGIS9 Website

The purpose of the SAR GIS Workshop was to build capacity and advance the use of location and analytics-based decision support tools across the SAR community for missing persons and disaster SAR. The diversity of perspectives and experiences generated a rich dialogue around challenges and potential solutions.


We had a diverse array of presentations from across Local, State, Federal, and Volunteer organizations. 

  • What is SARGIS? Who We Are & What We Do [Story Map] [YouTube]
  • Role of Geospatial in Urban SAR [PDF] [YouTube]
  • MyUSNG + Explorer for ArcGIS [PDF]
  • The Role of Geospatial in the Mountain Rescue Association [PDF]
  • Case Study: Snow Leopard SAR [PDF] [YouTube]
  • Lessons Learned from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria [PDF] [YouTube]
  • Case Study: Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in SAR [PDF] [YouTube]
  • Technology Speed Geeking: Lightning Talks [YouTube]
  • Probability of Area in SAR [PDF]
  • FEMA GIS: Parcel Data for Response [PDF]
  • Maps + Apps + Rangers [PDF]
  • Taking WebGIS Maps with You [PDF]
  • I’ve got Drones…now what? Emerging patterns of UAS in SAR [PDF]

MapSAR Online

MapSAR has been a great ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) tool for the past decade. However, we recognize the need for easier to use tools that can be used to collaborate across organizations. That is why have started a new initiative called, MapSAR Online. 

MapSAR Online was used effectively at SARGIS9 and everyone left with the capability of providing their team with a situational awareness viewer. Here is the app we used for training - each person created a quick hasty map for their area of responsibility and learned how to build a similar app for their team. It was awesome to see the map light up with Incident Command Posts across the US within a minute of accessing the app!

As a result of this training and exercise, the SAR Working Group will be working hard to roll out MapSAR as a combined ArcGIS Pro, Online, and Field template for organizations who want to quickly get up and running with geospatial tools. In the meantime - see the training website for currently available resources.

Field Exercise 

We also had an outdoor field exercise to test the concepts of using geospatial tools for planning, operations, field mobility, and situational awareness.This was also a great opportunity to work directly with software development staff at Esri to provide feedback on field apps like Workforce for ArcGIS

Participant Map 

This was the first time we had a combined wildland / urban search and rescue theme which allowed for greater collaboration and learning. Find out more about who was there and where they are from with this Story Map below (open in a new browser window if needed).

What can you do next to help your organization? 

This basic training event was meant to give you an awareness of tools that are available and for you to self-assess your level of preparedness with geospatial decision support tools. 

Complete a Self-Assessment – Use our beta-version Tool to self-assess your agency’s geospatial preparedness, and help you measure and track your progress in building and maturing your GIS capabilities. (http://bit.ly/2e6Z9KB)

Also check out the guidance for Wilderness SAR

2 Adopt and Implement the US National Grid as a point and area reference system towards achieving consistent situational awareness across agencies and levels of government.

3 Use Standardized Incident Symbology and explore & use national infrastructure data available through HIFLD Includes standardized symbols for Search & Rescue.

4 Update or Develop GIS SOPs – Use the latest guidelines and templates to update or develop GIS SOPs for your agency to support effective incident management & coordination. (http://bit.ly/2daopgZ)


This was an extremely fun and rewarding event. Best of all, thanks to the NAPSG Foundation and Esri, it was provided free of charge to participants and everyone left with new capabilities regardless of skill level with GIS. 

We would like to continue to host these events and provide tools like MapSAR - but we need your help! While our target audience has always been field practitioners and GIS Specialists, we need buy-in from decision makers to further invest in the use of geospatial tools for SAR. 
Here are some ways you can help.
1) Host a local event using the free training materials.
Stay tuned for more details on SARGIS10 and MapSAR development!

2) Speak with your County / State SAR Coordinator about the importance of geospatial tools in all aspects of search and rescue (Presentation). 
3) Join the SARGIS Community!

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