GIS Helps Yosemite National Park Improve Emergency Operations

Mapping and Analysis Used as a Critical Search and Rescue Tool 

Redlands, California—June 25, 2009—The world of twenty-first-century emergency operations is turning with ever greater frequency to high-tech tools for more effective response. Today, ArcGIS from ESRI supplies Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) with a new and improved method for carrying out a number of operations. The agency uses ArcGIS to outline initial search strategies, refine exploration as time progresses, and keep information continuously flowing from the field to the incident command post and back again.

"A geographic information system [GIS] supplies powerful tools," says Paul Doherty, park ranger and GIS specialist, Yosemite National Park Service. "It helps us perform a search more efficiently with enhanced team safety and a greater probability of returning victims to their loved ones." 

In less than a year, the YOSAR geospatial platform has been used successfully in half a dozen critical searches. GIS is used to produce data such as search area polygons; search segments/assignments; clues such as point last seen, footprints, litter, and trail interviews; GPS tracks from helicopters, ground crews, and dog teams; and viewshed analyses.

A myriad of datasets are built and maintained by the YOSAR GIS team. These include vector data on roads, streams, trails, park buildings, vegetation, and helispot locations. Raster data includes digital elevation models (DEM), which supply a three-dimensional surface with topographic features, and digital raster graphics (DRG), which are high-quality scanned images of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle (quad) maps that provide contour lines and detailed terrain information as well as 2005 National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) aerial imagery.

GIS provides a true information platform to map operations, update information, and improve decision making. It supplants paper maps and handwritten notes with digital data capture, management, analysis, and dissemination. GIS also supplies a standard for measuring or quantifying search variables versus simply supplying map images or approximate map polygons. In addition, the technology documents exactly where resources were directed and where to change actions as needed in a real-time search.

About ESRI
Since 1969, ESRI has been giving customers around the world the power to think and plan geographically. The market leader in GIS, ESRI software is used in more than 300,000 organizations worldwide including each of the 200 largest cities in the United States, most national governments, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, and more than 7,000 colleges and universities. ESRI applications, running on more than one million desktops and thousands of Web and enterprise servers, provide the backbone for the world’s mapping and spatial analysis. ESRI is the only vendor that provides complete technical solutions for desktop, mobile, server, and Internet platforms. Visit us at