I've been a backcountry ranger for the National Park Service for over 40 years. In the last 5 years, I've joined with a group of emergency services professionals from across the country to give people the training and tools to understand and use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) more effectively in their operations, especially search and rescue. Working with Jeff Tolhurst of the Earth Science/GIS Department, we’re developing a series of classroom and online courses to familiarize people with the tools and potential for more effective use of GIS. These courses will be for anyone – whether emergency responders or recreational users of iPhones, GPS or any mapping device – who wants to better understand mapping, coordinate systems and where they are on the planet!
In 2011, our workgroup was chosen for the Excellence in Public Safety Award by the National Association of GIS and Public Safety (NAPSG). In July of 2012, Jack Dangermond, President of Esri, presented us with a Special Achievement Award in GIS.
With Vanessa Glyn-Linaris, I am co-author of Using GIS in Wildland Search and Rescue. Although written for SAR, it is actually an excellent primer for anyone wanting to better understand the practical side of GIS, coordinate systems, using a GPS and mapping solutions.
Our workgroup also developed the MapSAR Tool and wrote The MapSAR User Manual. This is a software model that runs on ArcGIS 10.x to capture the huge volume of geospatial information generated by a search and rescue effort.Although it uses more advanced software and GIS knowledge, it is well within the reach of anyone with a serious interest in more effectively using GIS in SAR operations.