Search and Rescue

Debrief of 4 October 2003 Mock Search

initial written by Tom Russo

This is an early draft. It needs to be completed and fleshed out.


A light plane carrying 5 people was flying on a VFR flight plan from Roswell, NM to Albuquerque International Sunport when they radioed that they were experiencing engine problems. Radar and radio contact was lost at 07:55 on 4 October 2003, when the aircraft was 35 miles east of Albuquerque. An active ELT signal was detected.


Please ignore the "1:18000" scale stated in the map. The map was converted to JPEG format from a PostScript file that would have, if printed, rendered a map at 1:18000 scale, but the JPEG file is not at that scale. The UTM coordinates in UTM Zone 13 (NAD83) given by the "REGION:" block are correct, and the 1000 meter UTM grid should provide adequate reference.

The search area covers a small area on the Eastern edge of the Tijeras, NM quad, and a larger area on the Western edge of the Sedillo, NM quad. The same data draped over the USGS Digital Elevation Models can be seen in two 3-dimensional renderings ( 1, and 2 ).

Click here for technical details of how the map images were produced.

Mock Mission

The mission was an approved New Mexico SAR training by the NM Department of Public Safety and was given the official "mission number" of 03-00-02.

New Mexico Search and Rescue Support was called to field direction-finding teams to locate the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) at 08:30. The ELT was pinpointed by 13:00, and the NM SAR Support team trailer was moved to the Chamisoso Canyon trailhead (marked "Base" in the map image, at UTM coordinates 13S 0374137, 3880861).

Field teams from Cibola SAR, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council, White Mountain SAR, Mountain Canine Corps, Sandia Search Dogs and Santa Fe SAR began to arrive at Incident Base at [Please fill in the time!] and were deployed on ground assigments to locate the wreckage (photographs of the tail, fusilage, cabin interior of the wreckage mock-up are available).

When the wreckage was located (by Team 1, the red line on the map), the EMTs on scene began to assess the subject's injuries and the team determined that there was one person missing, one person deceased, and three subjects at the wreckage with injuries. One subject was in critical condition with internal injuries presenting as a large bruise over the right kidney and signs of shock including pale, cool skin with diaphoresis. Another subject had an open humerus fracture and the third had a superficial laceration to the forehead. The two lesser injuries were given first aid and walked out, then treated prior to transport to the hospital, while an immediate litter evacuation of the shock subject was begun.

A number of searchers were assigned to continue searching for the missing subject (the pilot, "Uncle Jim"). Another group of searchers were tasked by Don Scott of the Bernalillo County Office of Medical Investigations to search for the missing head of the deceased subject, at which time the body (simulated with a clothing store mannequin) was tagged and bagged for recovery.

Uncle Jim was located by Team (X, fill this in) at XX:XX. Due to the lateness of the hour it was decided to cancel the intended technical rescue of this subject, and the mock mission was terminated.

Training Objectives

  1. Provide an opportunity for the various SAR teams in New Mexico to participate in a joint training activity. Secondary objectives for the participating teams are:
    1. Practice multi-team communication procedures.
    2. Practice coordinating with other teams in a joint training exercise. For example, practice high-angle to low-angle rescue and evacuation operations.
    3. Familiarize each team with the personnel, procedures, and capabilities of the other participating New Mexico SAR teams.
  2. Provide an opportunity for the SAR ICS staff to obtain realistic training in managing a joint training activity. Secondary objectives for the ICS team are:
    1. Practice calling out a multi-team SAR mission.
    2. Practice utilizing various specialty teams such as dog teams, mounted search teams, ground teams, and high-angle teams.
    3. Practice coordinating a complex mission including parking, staging, team field management, and reacting to changing mission events.
  3. Specialty team objectives:
    1. Communication: Practice managing a multi-team communication process including call-out procedures and voice and GPS reporting activities.
    2. Dog Teams: Practice hasty trail search techniques using scent articles.
    3. Mounted Teams: Practice hasty trail search techniques using horses.
    4. Ground Teams: Practice hasty trail search and litter evacuation skills.
    5. High-angle Teams: Practice high-angle rescue techniques.
    6. Medical Elements of Teams: Practice simulated medical procedures on the training subjects.


This'll have to wait. There's a lot to be said.

Lessons Learned

This, too, will have to wait. There's a lot to be said.

Mapping technical details

Only open-source, free software was used to produce the map images on this page. Please interpret the text in this section as a way of thanking the hundreds of volunteer programmers who contributed to the creation of this software.

The map was produced using the GRASS open-source geographic information system (GIS). The digital raster graphic (DRG) files for the Tijeras, NM and Sedillo, NM quadrangles were imported, collar information was trimmed, and the two maps tiled together. The DRGs and associated digital elevation models (DEM) were purchased directly from the USGS through the Earth Explorer web site.

APRS and GPS track data were obtained through the Xastir APRS tracking software, which includes support for the GPSman GPS utility with GPSmanshp shape-file support. APRS data was exported directly from Xastir into ESRI shapefile format, GPS data was downloaded and exported into shapefile format using GPSman through the Xastir interface. The shapefiles were converted from Lat/Lon to UTM coordinates (using the "shpproj" utility provided by the shapelib and Proj4 libraries) and imported into a GRASS database covering the Sedillo and Tijeras quad areas. The map and tracking data were then combined into a printable map in PostScript format with the "" function of GRASS. The PostScript map was converted to JPEG format for this web page using GNU Ghostscript and the NetPBM utilities. The JPEG image suffers considerable image degradation due to the compression algorithm, but the PostScript file would have been too large to store on this web site, and most web browsers wouldn't be able to display it anyway.

Three-dimensional images were produced using the NVIZ program included with GRASS. The USGS 10-meter resolution Digital Elevation Models for Tijeras and Sedillo, NM quadrangles were imported into GRASS, the search region was selected and the tiled elevation model was interpolated within the selected region to 1-meter resolution using bilinear interpolation. The 1-meter resolution model was used as the topography input for the 3-d visualization, and surface was colored with the same spliced topo map used for the printable map, and the APRS and GPS vector layers plotted on top of the surface. The output images were converted to JPEG using the NetPBM utilities.

Since the source maps were produced with the UTM projection and NAD83 datum and the USGS data files were all georeferenced with that projection and datum, that was the coordinate system used for all the GIS, GPS and APRS data.

Only two of the 8 or so field teams in the mock search had functioning APRS trackers, and only one other team member's GPS track data was downloaded. I hope to do a more thorough job of gathering data for documentation of future trainings and missions.

Satisfied customer details

Moulage materials and training for the simulated injuries in this mock search was obtained from Image Perspectives. There is no affiliation of any sort between Cibola SAR and Image Perspectives or any implied endorsement by Cibola for Image Perspectives, the former just happens to have a member who is a satisfied customer of the latter.

Web site maintained by the CSAR Web Staff

Search this site:

Google Custom Search

Last Modified: 04/20/15 12:43:18
This page has been accessed some number of times since 05/21/07.