When someone goes missing, many people and organisations get involved in the search and thanks to the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), Ordnance Survey data is included in the tools the search agencies have at their disposal.
Lowland Search dogs (LSdogs) is a non-profit, voluntary organisation founded in 2002. It overseas the standards and testing for dogs used to search for missing persons in lowland areas of the UK and assists the police and other agencies involved in search and rescue operations. A dog can search an area of 50 – 80 acres with a high probability of detecting the whereabouts of the missing person within an hour to an hour and a half, so they can be a vital and useful member of any search team.
With the launch of the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) in 2011, LS dogs were able to join, meaning that they can access digital mapping products from Ordnance Survey in the same way that other emergency services can. There are a host of benefits to this agreement, not least being able to share highly detailed digital information such OS MasterMap Topography layer, across the various bodies involved in any particular search.
Search teams are now using digital mapping for navigation and assigning areas for individual dogs and dog handlers during an incident. They use specialist handheld GPS devices and have access to the same map data as the other emergency services which helps them to identify and manage the search locations, therefore co-ordinating the search response more effectively. And cross-border search operations are also easier as everyone has access to the same data for the entirety of Great Britain without worrying about county or administrative boundaries.
LS dogs is now looking at other ways it can benefit from the location data such as identifying and reporting on danger hotspots, but we are pleased that the PSMA is helping in such vital and important work.