When I started SAR in the late 80’s, besides compasses the only other technologies used for documentation was acetates and markers. We thought we were doing a great job marking each day’s search effort on an individual acetate and putting “cross hairs” on it to make sure we could accurately place it on a map again if needed. We would then look for the lost person, but not at the clues. Unfortunately we didn’t find many people back then, but thanks to the search pioneers, once we started looking for clues we saw a significant difference in how quickly we were able to locate the missing person. With today’s technological advances we are able to find clues other than just footprints in the ground.
Mapping programs like QuoVadis 7 help us paint the picture of our lost person’s adventure. It allows us to see aerial images, topographic maps, street maps, overlays and digital elevation maps that will assist with our SAR operation and documentation. It will do more than show us the area searched, but also provide clues within the data that we are able to interpret. This process isn’t easy for some. It’s like an open book exam with the answers right in front of you. The data may be found in “The Lost Person Questionnaire”, Lost Person Characteristics, GPS downloads, UAS video, old-fashioned notes, and sometimes “The absence of a clue is a clue itself.”
As a Search Manager, you will need to interpret all this data in order to solve the mystery. This is where your experience will yield positive results. This scientific approach to SAR operations will help in locating the missing person. In conclusion, the best way to expand your SAR toolbox is by transforming your program to allow the “Science of SAR” to assist in locating the missing person.