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Search and Rescue, Adopting New Technologies for

Quicker Search Responses

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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I have been a volunteer of the Houston search and rescue organization for a couple of years
now and my background and areas of experience are in mapping and GPS technologies. I
currently work for Forest Lands and Natural Resources as a GIS analyst and have been working
on a provincial mobile device research and development team for the past 8 months. This
groups mandate is to research current trends around mobile devices and document
recommendations on modernizing government with mobile device technology.
As such I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on current trends and capabilities
with this technology and am excited to introduce it into our SAR team to improve search
responses and critical field data collection.
I am proposing that Houston Search and Rescue move our mapping and field data collection to
a modern more common digital world of smart phones and tablets rather than the old paper map
and GPS techniques of the past.
Based on my experiences with the provincial R & D team I have concluded that the Apple
iPhones and iPad tablets provide the best combination of hardware and software apps for
search and rescue needs and this document outlines the capabilities and uses Houston SAR
volunteers will be using these devices for.

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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Smart Phone and Tablet Capabilities:

Many smart phones and tablets on the market these days are equipped with impressive
technologies. Most of this technology is intended for gaming and navigating around cities. For
mobile device the four top uses are:

Communication txting, talking and social media, snapping and sharing pictures
Information - Web browsing, information, shopping
Navigation - finding restaurants, and driving instructions, etc

Navigation capabilities fall in the top three uses and as a result most of the phones and higher
end tablets come with good quality GPS receivers. It is important to point out that many phones
and tablets available these days will navigate accurately with or without cell coverage.
First some definitions:

GPS US based Global Positioning System

GLONAS Russian base global positioning system, Stands for Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya
Sputnikovaya Sistema

A-GPS assisted GPS, uses a combination of cell towers and GPS system to acquire a location

Hybrid Systems uses a combination of A-GPS as well as standalone GPS and GLONAS
systems for navigation.

Note: Apple 4, 4s, and 5 smart phones as well as the higher end models iPad 4 and iPad mini
use hybrid location systems and can navigate very accurately and independently outside of cell
and WiFI services.

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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Smart Phone Benefits over Traditional Devices:

One device does it all!
Smart phones and tablets are now very powerful computers that are equipped with many
additional components making them the ideal tool that replace multiple older devices. A single
smart phone or tablet device can replace:

Laptop or PC
Camera all photos are automatically geo-referenced
Paper Maps, plotters printers
Expensive GIS software for mapping
Paper forms, manuals and guides
Satellite communications

This benefits search and rescue volunteers tremendously by allowing us to concentrate on

fewer devices as well as work with devices most people are already familiar with and use
regularly in their personal lives.

Our Search and Rescue volunteers will use smart phones and tablets for the following:

Initial search information. Subject picture and point last seen location
Planning and organizing a search
Communicate search plans to searchers and public
Navigating in the field
Collecting spatially referenced data and photos in the field
Compiling, analyzing and documenting searches for future references
Tracking locations of search teams on large or remote searches with satellite

We will no longer need to teach searchers how to use, read and navigate with traditional paper
maps or even GPS but instead will add simple apps to smart phones and tablets that are
already commonly used in most peoples work and private lives.

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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Examples of Uses

Here are some examples of how these device can be used and merged seamlessly into our
current field search practices.
They can be easily used in a helicopter for navigation and field data collection

Or used on foot, quad or horseback and in any weather

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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Planning and initial search information can be communicated to any number of searchers
quickly and efficiently through e-mail and then taken directly into field and used on the search.
This will drastically improve initial search response times:

Google Earth Compatible means easy data compilation and long term documentation!

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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Detailed data with geo-referenced photos can be collected by every searcher in the field and
merged for search management and analysis after each search day.

No More Paper, printers, ink, or photocopiers to break down!

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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Search Workflow Comparison Traditional vs New Example

Traditional Process - This process takes several hours!


Search Manager receives call from RCMP

Search Manager meets with RCMP and is given search information and plan search
Search Manager contacts Searchers
Search Manager contacts and arranges to meet GIS staff to map out a search plan
Several paper maps are produced
Searcher all meet at a base camp and hand out maps
Each searcher takes map hand-out along with GPS and compass and camera and start
8. All data from separate devices need to be compiled and manually transferred by search
Many manual processes, requires access to expensive GIS equipment and plotters, requires
searchers to juggle and carry multiple devices, more physical travelling to complete steps.

The Future with Smart Phones and Tablets - This process will drastically reduce response
1. Search Manager receives call from RCMP
2. Search Manager meets with RCMP or simply receives an email and is given search
information. The search plan is created directly on the iPad saving time.
3. Search Manager contacts searchers and emails out search plan to all searchers
4. Searchers all meet at base camp and begin search with information already on their
5. Searchers use the mobile device to track where they have been and what they have
found photos included.
6. Search information is easily compiled at the end of each day by e-mailing the data to
search managers
Faster, one device, and easier learning and training curve for searchers, searchers can travel
directly to base camp without having to meet to get paper maps, photos or search instructions.

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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As with any tools, whether GPS and compass, or iPhones and iPads it is critical that searchers
familiarity and use is second nature especially under the pressures of a real search. We
encourage our volunteers to use and practice with any and all equipment as much as possible.
Utilizing smart phones and tablets has an added advantage where most volunteers in the
community are already familiar with their general function and the addition of search specific
software apps on these devices can be learned very easily and quickly.
As search and rescue volunteers it is important that we continually investigate and implement
better tools and processes. Introducing a combination of iPads, iPad minis, and iPhones as well
as creating processes to support these devices will significantly improve our response times and
search efficiencies giving SAR team better chances of success.

Andy Muma Houston Search and Rescue

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