Mapping Technology in Wilderness Search and Rescue
Wilderness or wildland search and rescue (WiSAR) managers and planners create and use maps to plan searches, collaborate on strategy, decide where to distribute resources, and communicate tasks to searchers in the field. Although maps and geographic information play a major role in WiSAR, current digital mapping technology has not been widely adopted to support WiSAR efforts. The ultimate objectives of this research are to inform the development of useful mapping solutions to support WiSAR and to facilitate their adoption by the WiSAR community. To this end, I address the following three research questions: (1) How is mapping technology currently used to facilitate WiSAR operations, including geocollaborative situations? (2) Are there any key gaps or unmet user needs in existing mapping functionality for WiSAR? (3) What are the key challenges to the adoption and use of new mapping technology within WiSAR teams? To answer these questions, I conducted an interview study with map users working or volunteering in WiSAR. The results enumerate participants' observations about different forms of mapping technology and their current uses, limitations, advantages, and potential directions for improvement. This study captures a snapshot of mapping technology for WiSAR in 2014. Findings indicate that non-functional considerations -- or factors beyond the mapping functionality such as human resources, cost, usability, interoperability, and efficiency --are crucial factors in the usefulness and adoption of mapping technology for WiSAR. Different use contexts and tasks within the mission of a search are better served by particular forms of mapping technology. This study enumerates several opportunities to improve mapping technology for WiSAR.
Search and Rescue