First responders will soon be able to use an app that scours data from 150,000 past missing-persons cases in order to locate a lost individual.

According to a website post from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) is creating software designed to help search-and-rescue groups. In a partnership with dbS Productions, FRG developed FIND to track lost individuals, some of whom may be children or people with disabilities. In addition to analyzing potential behavioral patterns based on previous cases, the FIND app also considers a missing person’s age, state of health, access to survival gear, and survival experience.

Building from DHS’s Lost Person Locator (LPL) project, the FIND software uses statistics of patterns made by missing persons over 150,000 past cases.

“The FIND app is the latest LPL project to reach the final evaluation phase. It compiles the data on where the person is most likely to be found, based on the common patterns and behaviors of those lost and in distress,” said Angela Ervin, S&T program manager, in the website post.

The new app integrates information and offers intelligent analysis so first responders can work quickly rather than sift through copious amounts of data, according to Robert Koester, CEO of dbS Productions.

In June, search-and-rescue squads tested FIND in Deschutes County, Ore. The Oregon test run involved a simulated plane crash. S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) partnered with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an Operational Field Assessment (OFA) of the technology with local search-and-rescue teams. In the post, Lt. Bryan Husband, special services coordinator with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, said FIND was beneficial because it linked volunteers, maps, and team communication.

“The most appealing thing about the FIND software, as a search-and-rescue coordinator, is that it helps fill the void that we face on a mission-by-mission basis. It’s the ability to create a map and task descriptions and then transmit it to the field teams very quickly. It can be tough to generate this map, the tasks, and then get it done in a timely fashion,” Husband said.

Unlike most apps, FIND does not rely on connectivity to the Internet. The case studies and programs are already loaded into the app, and are available to response teams that are working “off the grid.” The app also features a mapping system that does not require previous knowledge of geographical information systems (GIS).

“We are very happy with the results of the OFA,” said Ervin. “FIND has already been tested in several exercises and proved its ability to improve the search time. The feedback gained from the OFA will be used to enhance the FIND software so search-and-rescue professionals may enter specific search criteria based on firm data from similar past cases. This could offer a much greater likelihood of a positive outcome.”

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