Friday, April 29, 2005

Technology in Search & Rescue


tungsten c
Originally uploaded by terpkristin.
As many of my readers probably know, I've been involved with volunteer wilderness search and rescue for quite some time now. Currently, I have my Level 2 certification in cave rescue and am a Field Team Leader within the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference. While I was in the shower today, I thought of an idea for a PDA application that I would find useful, and I think others might too (isn't it great how inspiration so often comes while in the shower?). Anyway, I don't know a darn thing about programming for PDA's, so I was hoping that by posting this on my blog, somebody might have an idea of an existing application or might want to help me develop one.

The general idea is this: Because of injury, I'm currently doing the dispatch duties for my team. That is, when the page comes out that there is a search, it's my responsibility to contact the members of my team, get their availabilities, and, if necessary, send them out to the site of the search. Naturally, searches happen when I'm almost never near my computer, but I keep my T|C within an arm's length 24-7, so most of my dispatching duties are done through my Palm. I keep a copy of the group roster in DTG (Excel format), and usually can use something like DTG/Word To Go to keep track of who I've called and what their status is. However, in doing this yesterday, and thinking about it today, I realized how much more convenient it would be to have a PDA application (theoretically said application should be able to work on PPC, Palm, and Windows/Mac) where you could store your roster info in one menu/page, the particulars of a search (subject description, details, directions to the search) in another menu, and team details (for the specific search) in another menu/page. It would also be quite helpful to be able to work seamlessly between those menues/pages and then, when the search was over, be able to export the information to a formatted text (or maybe HTML) file that could be used/read by anybody if it were necessary in the future (for legal reasons, we keep most everything related to a search in hard and electronic format whenever possible).

One day it might be cool to also develop an application for use in the field, to use in reporting clues found and for completing the report of what area was searched to what POD, etc, etc. Currently, I know many SAR activities use laptops at base, and it would be quite convenient to integrate it all into one (relatively inexpensive, especially for the volunteer groups) package. But, I think a good first effort in this type of project would be to make a useful tool for dispatchers.

If there is already a program that does this kind of thing, then I'd love if somebody could point me to it, and if not and if there's interest, maybe somebody could email me about actually making it. I can be reached at kpilotte_AT_gmail_DOT_com, or on AIM as terptex.

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