A search and rescue mission is a huge undertaking for any team, however many years’ experience the members have had. For the team to work effectively, it is vital that they have navigation systems in place, whether it be via traditional methods such as using a paper map and compass, or a more modern, sophisticated people of technology to do the same job. Without the use of navigation, the operation will inevitably take much longer, therefore putting the distressed person at even more risk than they are already. Furthermore, a proper navigation system will serve to protect the search and rescue team members, preventing them from becoming lost; in this way, the system will be upholding the safety of the team as well as reducing the risk to the person in distress.
According to the United States Coast Guard, the definition of Search and Rescue is, "The use of available resources to assist persons or property in potential or actual distress." The umbrella term of search and rescue comprises numerous sub-fields, which are usually referring to specific terrain aspects. Examples of such sub-fields include mountain rescue; ground search and rescue; urban search and rescue, and air-sea rescue over water, among others.
Essential to any search and rescue mission is the efficient use of navigation techniques. Traditional methods involve using a map and a compass in order to accurately plan a route and adhere to it without becoming lost or straying from the planned route. When on a search and rescue shout, it is essential that the search team does not become lost. They need to find the person in distress as quickly as possible, and if they were to stray from the route this would delay the distressed person getting help. Furthermore, if a member of a search and rescue team become lost, they may then need to be searched for and rescued, doubling the workload of the rest of the team. Therefore, before a search and rescue mission is launched and the team dispatched, all of the members must be clear on which area they are covering, and must be fully equipped with navigation equipment.
Although the method of using a paper map and compass in navigation has been used successfully for many years, there are downsides to it. Maps can be cumbersome and difficult to access large parts of all at one time. Furthermore, adverse weather conditions can make reading a paper map problematic. As many search and rescue missions are launched during bad weather, this problem with paper maps can be very significant.
Fortunately, nowadays, there are now far more sophisticated methods in existance. The efficiency of a search and rescue team can be greatly enhanced by the presence of a functioning navigation system. A navigation system enables the search and rescue team to remain on track, covering the area that they have been instructed to. Furthermore, once the person in distress has been located, it is imperative that the team know exactly where they are so as to call for help from other services, for example an ambulance.
Certain pieces of technology has a setting where team members can track each other. On the ViewRanger, for example, there is a BuddyBeacon tracking system. On each team members handset there is a map on which the locations of the other team members can be seen. This feature enables the teams to work more effectively as a group and the process of searching is made much more easily coordinated during a mission (ViewRanger).
Of course, the downside to products such as the ViewRanger is that they can cost a great deal of money. However, if only one or two team members had access to the technology, and the rest of the team had access to mobile phones, it would still be a vast improvement in terms of efficiency for the whole team working together. Although the satalite navigation systems can be expensive, they are arguably worth it. There are few other pieces of equipment that would make such a huge difference to the work of the team, with the exception of suitable clothing for the search and rescue members.
Overall, the use of navigation is vital in carrying out an effective search and rescue mission. Without a proper navigation system, a team would not be able to keep proper track of the area they are covering, and would struggle to track where they have been. Effective navigation can speed up the process of finding a person in distress, therefore limiting the chance of them being in grave danger. Once the person has been located, the team need to alert other services to call for appropriate help for the person. Without effective navigation, it would be impossible for the search and rescue team member to explain exactly where the person is located. Furthermore, a solid process of navigation can safeguard the team members as it will prevent them from becoming lost and in distress themselves.
Department for Transport. “UK Search and Rescue.” 2011. Web. 26 Sept 2011.
United States Costal Guard. 2011. Web. 26 Sept 2011. http://uscg.mil/
ViewRanger. “Search and Rescue Used and Trusted.” 2011. Web. 26 Sept 2011.