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Search and rescue in distant lands with LANDINFO

Each year, thousands of hikers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts become lost in dangerous wildland areas. Thousands more disappear during natural disasters. In the United States and several other countries, families and friends can turn to well equipped and trained local authorities for search and rescue aid. However, in many countries, sophisticated search and rescue is not available. Three years ago, 1st Special Response Group (1SRG) set out to bridge this gap. This all-volunteer, non-profit group has successfully responded to aid missions on four continents. The group is utilizing GPS and geospatial technologies to support its global humanitarian activities.

1SRG is a rapid response team able to conduct wilderness, mountain, & sea searches virtually anywhere in the world. Most surprising, it performs these emergency missions on a purely volunteer, non-profit basis. The group’s participants usually perform missions on personal time and vacation days. Most of the volunteers must balance their rescue work with full-time careers. Additionally, the group is dependent on contributed equipment, supplies, and cash donations.

1SRG initiates a mission following a distress call from an international government agency, aid organization, or a victim’s family/friend. The group usually deploys a field team of four to twelve members within 48-72 hours. Depending on the local emergency infrastructure, 1SRG will either support local authorities or take full control of the search.

LAND INFO worked with 1SRG to produce a base map for the search area. LANDINFO provided 1:100,000 scale, geo-referenced topographic maps. The base data was used with ArcView software for planning and coordination. Field teams that were equipped with GPS receivers also utilized the maps.

1SRG has several success stories, including search missions in Fiji, Australia, Mexico, and Turkey. The organization has also been active on the humanitarian front. For example, earlier this year, 1SRG helped fund the distribution of medical supplies to local civilian hospitals in war-torn Afghanistan.

Another primary objective of 1SRG is to strengthen the readiness of local authorities for search and rescue operations. Last year, 1SRG lead two training missions in Turkey. This past March, the organization worked with a local search and rescue organization in Nepal to train trekking guides in wilderness medical skills