the microphone has a sunlight-readable display that shows the user's location and the location of and distance from all other team members on the same frequency. Another useful enhancement is the ability to send text messages over a radio frequency and read them from the microphone's display. From the incident command post or any command vehicle within radio range, search managers can keep track of all SAR personnel, aircraft, canine units, snowcats and other resources in real time just by looking at their laptop screen running RedZone software. This frees up the radio frequencies for essential transmissions and takes the guesswork out of trying to determine personnel location either day or night. In the very near future, search teams returning to the incident command post will see their track logs already displayed in the Mobile Mapping Unit, and maps of their search progress will be printed and waiting for their approval.

GIS is now widely recognized as an essential tool for making faster, safer and more informed decisions. This is particularly useful in SAR, where so much is at stake. One of the most important advantages of using GIS in SAR missions, and one that pleases the risk managers, is thorough documentation. These maps would make great exhibits during any litigation that may arise from a search.

There's no doubt that GIS has become an important tool for search managers," said John Amrhein, SBSD's Situation Unit leader. "GIS allows us to make better-informed decisions on where to concentrate searchers in the following operational periods. Being able to know exactly where a team has searched is invaluable, whereas in the past you would just have the teams' best guess as to what areas they had covered. I am also very excited about the possibilities of the new technology of live tracking search assets in the field, not only from a search management view, but also for searcher safety issues. Also, as in any operation, documentation is important, and GIS provides this very nicely."


For more information about the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Mobile Mapping Unit, GIS for Search and Rescue training course, and real-time GIS rescue applications, contact John Amrhein, Tom Patterson or Clark Woodward.


Tom Patterson  |  Contributing Writer
Tom Patterson is an ESRI Wildland Fire Specialist