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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

New app helps search and rescuers to locate missing people

Posted on 7th July 2016 at 11:56am

Our bloggers examine a new app that identifies high probability areas where an individual goes missing so searchers can initiate rapid response.

From left to right; subject with dementia statistics shown as distance from initial planning point; App home display to begin new search cirteria; Subject profile browser based on search characteristics

Search and Rescue (SAR) teams that locate and rescue missing people are well established in many countries and are often assisted by concerned citizens and volunteers.

Public safety officials need a system that can be employed at a minute’s notice so they can efficiently and successfully manage a deployment search and rescue team to start, carry out and locate missing persons, whether they are underground, underwater or under collapsed rubble or buildings. This plan can also include accessing important data that needs to be collected in a high stress and dangerous environment.

A new app, recently tested in the field by the DHS, could help with such planning, as it gives step-by-step instructions on search plans for first responders and response teams and provides guidance, protocols and strategies.

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) First Responders Group developed the app with the support of SAR teams around the US, and in co-operation with dbS Productions.

The Lost Person Behaviour book by dbS Productions is a guide to solving where a lost person might be found. The book is designed both as field and library reference, containing SAR incident statistics from the International Search and Rescue Incident Database, which contains over 50,000 SAR incidents.

Now, all this data has been incorporated into the ‘Lost Person Behavior’ App to provide better emergency analysis. 

The app contains 41 varying scenario characteristics, ranging from the land terrain where the person in question went missing and scenario analysis, to the missing person’s mental state, combining them to create a tailored situational assessment for the cause of the emergency, as well as helping to determine initial tasks that should be undertaken. Scenarios include lost hikers, hunters, children, missing vehicles, despondent individuals, dementia patients and climbers, as well as providing guidance for snow and water incidents.

As the user selects specific categories, based on the information they know prior to the search, the app formulates a scenario that best fits the criteria and allows the search to be initiated based on these parameters. Next, tactical briefings are presented to responders of any level to assist their approach in locating the missing person.

In addition, the app provides the user with elevation and mobility models, dispersion angles based on the proposed location of the subject, survivability rates and overall survivability of the subject after all parameters have been entered.

As the app is mobile and can be used on any smartphone, it eliminates the need for responders and officials to carry unnecessary bulky equipment with them during searches for missing people. Print options are available to facilitate the sharing of statistics and demographics of the search with other involved responders. This allows those responders taking part who may not be trained in SAR missions, including concerned citizens and volunteers, to still be a benefit to the search by providing them with everything necessary to locate an individual.

A DHS team recently tested the reliability of the app in a field test, where it successfully located the mock victim. The DHS tweeted on June 19, 2016: “‪#SAR‪ volunteers found their first live "victim" using our Lost Person Behavior app + FIND software.”

Search missions are time critical, and this app helps to narrow down possibilities far more quickly.

There are currently no reviews on Apple’s App store for the application. It can be purchased for $9.99 here, on Amazon and Google Play.

By Emily Koehler, Ian Portelli

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