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GPS unit for Search & Rescue


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Howdy,

 

I'm with a S&R team and have been tasked with making the recommendation for GPS units to be used on an S&R mission. There is a section of the Cumberland Trail recently opened that travels across our jurisdiction and in this section of trail there are many hazards in which we believe hikers will get themselves in trouble.

 

Out intended use for these units will be to transfer waypoint information of the trail and have this information stored in a laptop. Then when we are at an incident the Incident Commander will have an opportunity to view where we are on the trial and develop the easiest way to extricate the patient.

 

So far we have been looking at the Rino 530 and the 76CSx. Of these two units which would provide us the best support for out intended use and are there others we should consider. For the most part there is a heavy canopy so we are more interested in units that can deal with this sort of terrain.

 

I'm new to this type of technology and so any help or information will be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks to all,

Bill

Sale Creek Fire & Rescue

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The Rhino can transmit a waypoint from one GPS to another. That may prove handy if one person needs to tell others where they are. The 76CSx won't do that. (however if you are not using the Rhino's radio it means you have a radio and can tell someone where you are making the feature nice but not truly needed...)

 

I'm unsure if the Rhino can accept an External Antanea, but the 76 can. The external antanea helps immensly with reception under tree cover. However both those GPSs are better than the prior generation.

 

Both will connect to the computer and upload and donwload waypoints.

Edited by Renegade Knight
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Howdy,

 

I'm with a S&R team and have been tasked with making the recommendation for GPS units to be used on an S&R mission. There is a section of the Cumberland Trail recently opened that travels across our jurisdiction and in this section of trail there are many hazards in which we believe hikers will get themselves in trouble.

 

Out intended use for these units will be to transfer waypoint information of the trail and have this information stored in a laptop. Then when we are at an incident the Incident Commander will have an opportunity to view where we are on the trial and develop the easiest way to extricate the patient.

 

So far we have been looking at the Rino 530 and the 76CSx. Of these two units which would provide us the best support for out intended use and are there others we should consider. For the most part there is a heavy canopy so we are more interested in units that can deal with this sort of terrain.

 

I'm new to this type of technology and so any help or information will be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks to all,

Bill

Sale Creek Fire & Rescue

 

 

I use a Garmin 60CSx which provides excellent reception under a heavy tree canopy. I would say that it is a better choice than the 76CSx, because it is more rugged and has the quad-helix anttena. The incident commander can use the Mapsource US Topo or National Parks 24K software to acquire a longitude/Latitude positon on the rescue party and make a determination from there by using the "Go To Position" feature of the software. When he types in the coordinates given to him, it will display exactly where the party said they were.

I don't have any experience with the Rino series, so I can't give any input on them. I do know they show the other members that have Rino GPS'rs on the screen, but I don't know what the range would be to view them. Maybe someone who owns them could provide some input.

If you have any more questions about my set-up, drop me an e-mail. cpmellofarms@sbcglobal.net

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"I would say that it is a better choice than the 76CSx, because it is more rugged and has the quad-helix anttena" - Christopher Columbus

 

The 76CSx is THE SAME as the 60CSx, but has a covered antenna and WILL FLOAT by itself if dropped in water. They have the same software,antenna, etc. I believe the 70CSx is aimed at both hiking & water/marine use , which is why I chose it over the 60 series. I am a firefighter myself, and I will attest to the 76CSx ability to hold a sat. fix under dense cover, and as stated already, if needed a n external antenna can also be used. This is a solid model, and works great in a Gilsson neoprean case w/ attached caribeaner for easy travel.

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We use the Magellan Explorist 500- I can run a trail with my hound and upload that trail to either Google Earth or another mapping program and show exactly where we went and where we were when we found the victim. I don't usually have any problems with heavy tree cover, and we have an awful lot of that in East Texas. It's withstood a number of bangs and bumps and has been drowned in a few heavy rainstorms. Another sister search team uses older models of Magellans without difficulty.

 

I think the most important thing is to become proficient in the use of whatever model you decide on. Believe it or not, we actually use geocaching to teach new members about GPS use; caching is also good to teach new members about clue detection, particularly on the more evil hides. We also stress map and compass skills, since the GPS can die at any given time. I also teach my hounds to "take us home" at the end of a trail, so I've got another backup to the GPS. (That skill has proven itself useful on one rather memorable occasion.) :anicute:

 

sarhound and Deputyhound

First Response Search and Rescue

Jefferson, TX

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Howdy,

 

I'm with a S&R team and have been tasked with making the recommendation for GPS units to be used on an S&R mission. There is a section of the Cumberland Trail recently opened that travels across our jurisdiction and in this section of trail there are many hazards in which we believe hikers will get themselves in trouble.

 

Out intended use for these units will be to transfer waypoint information of the trail and have this information stored in a laptop. Then when we are at an incident the Incident Commander will have an opportunity to view where we are on the trial and develop the easiest way to extricate the patient.

 

So far we have been looking at the Rino 530 and the 76CSx. Of these two units which would provide us the best support for out intended use and are there others we should consider. For the most part there is a heavy canopy so we are more interested in units that can deal with this sort of terrain.

 

I'm new to this type of technology and so any help or information will be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks to all,

Bill

Sale Creek Fire & Rescue

 

This is not a direct answer to your questions. I do have a 60cx and love it!

 

But, a great service would to be map out the entire Cumberland Trail using Google Earth and then to mark those points along the trail where one could easily get off the trail if not careful. A national trails data base would be nice. GPS tracks for the most used trails done in such a way that they could be downloaded to anyone's GPSr.

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I would think any Garmin 76csx or 60csx series would be the way to go. All S&R units that I know of have their own radio frequency and the radios they carry have a way better range than that of the FRS frequencies that the Garmin Rino radios have. Also the incident command center could keep track of personal in the field if a S&R person would just transmit coordinates via the S&R radio frequency.

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You want professional gear, not the mass market junk the rest of us use. Contact Garmin or Magellan and tell them what you need. They have pro lines that will stand up to abuse that would send the other units to the dumpster. There is a world of difference between extracting humans from life and death situations and looking for little boxes with paper and pennies in them. Plus pro equipment will stay in the parts and service pipeline for a very long time.

 

 

 

Howdy,

 

I'm with a S&R team and have been tasked with making the recommendation for GPS units to be used on an S&R mission. There is a section of the Cumberland Trail recently opened that travels across our jurisdiction and in this section of trail there are many hazards in which we believe hikers will get themselves in trouble.

 

Out intended use for these units will be to transfer waypoint information of the trail and have this information stored in a laptop. Then when we are at an incident the Incident Commander will have an opportunity to view where we are on the trial and develop the easiest way to extricate the patient.

 

So far we have been looking at the Rino 530 and the 76CSx. Of these two units which would provide us the best support for out intended use and are there others we should consider. For the most part there is a heavy canopy so we are more interested in units that can deal with this sort of terrain.

 

I'm new to this type of technology and so any help or information will be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks to all,

Bill

Sale Creek Fire & Rescue

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I use a Garmin 60CSx which provides excellent reception under a heavy tree canopy. I would say that it is a better choice than the 76CSx, because it is more rugged and has the quad-helix anttena.

 

I'm not sure where you got this info. I've yet to encounter a more rugged unit than the 76 series. Both the 76 and the 60 series use a quad helix antenna. Both get great reception under trees.

 

In response to the OP's question, I think the 76CSX would be a great choice as it will work great under a heavy tree canopy and also accepts an external antenna.

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I belong to Massasuga SAR, a wilderness search & rescue team in upstate NY and we have been using GPS units for years. We have a couple "professional" versions, but they are old and clunky. Most of our team members buy their own and have a range of types...mostly Garmin models (Etrex Vista, 60CSx, 76C, 76CSx, etc)...at this point the best for our use seems to be either the 60CSx or 76CSx. No preference between these models, but some people like one keyboard layout better than the other (see comparision thread for more info). Both units do a spectacular job of holding lock under heavy tree cover, in drainages, etc. The built in compasses work well and are handy but most of us tend to use a regular compass for bearings, etc.

 

We use powerful (25 watt handhelds for emergency use) VHF radios, sometimes with portable repeaters, to relay UTM coordinates to search base where they are entered into MapTech on computers...from this we can print updated maps, know where the teams are, etc. At completion of a mission assignment, the team's tracks are also put into MapTech, so that an indication of coverage is quite visible on a map.

 

All in all, a good deal. Would recommend either the 60Csx or 76CSx. The "pro" versions seem no better and are not as cost-effective as the current high-end consumer types.

 

mogul2us

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If you want a good unit that can handle tree caverage, make sure it has a helix antenna.

Garmin has several, GPS60 series, 76 series etc. The Rhino also has a helix antenna in it.

 

We teach GPS to educators and other professionals. We deal with a Garmin dealer who gives a very good rate to schools and govt agencies and S&R groups. Usually it is 30% list.

 

Email me and I will send you the info

egorny@gis2gps.com

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While I see the point Winston 61 is trying to make, I feel compelled to add the following:

 

I have the expensive units.... Trimble 4800's (25 G's ea.) and a newer Trimble Pathfinder Pro (5 G's) here at work. Dropping an expensive unit like this in a rough terrain area would likely be the end of it. I've dropped my Garmin Vista CX plenty of times with barely a scratch on it. I would go with higher end recreational units with topographic mapping software. As discussed in other threads.....the coordinates you get will be only as good as the unit they were received on, which in your case would more than likely be a recreational unit or a ping from a cellphone. These units should get you close enough to the victim and will be cost effective, allowing most everyone on your team to have one on hand.

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I concur with rhitchco. I'm with a California SAR team and our members purchase their own GPS units. I recently upgraded from an eTrex Vista to a 60 Csx and the difference in the ability to acquire and lock on to a signal is very noticeable.

 

My SAR team also uses geocaching as a way to get members familiar with how to use their GPS. They need to know how to input coordinates in both lat/long and UTM, as well as what effect using the wrong datum will have on locating their search area. On a muddy trail at 3:00 in the morning, in the rain and poison oak is not the time to try to remember how to do those things! :laughing:

 

As we are volunteers who fall under the Sheriff's Office, Emergency Services/Homeland Security division, we use regular department radios using licensed public safety frequencies.

 

We tried the early Garmin Rhino 110 and Rhino 120 for a "reality based" show called "Tactical to Practical" which was shot for The History Channel. They did a segment on GPS and how GPS moved from military use only to non-military applications.

 

The Rhinos worked as well as any other GPS unit available at the time, however, the radios were still only consumer quality...we couldn't get through to our search base even though it was less than a mile away.

 

Paul

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Yea, as a member of ski patrol I wouldn't use the Rhino radios because they just can't go far enough. I would use regular high frequency radios and carry a cx or csx unit. That is what I do for backcountry stuff. Not to mention, using those radios means you can call a bird and they can talk to you.

 

I do use 2 rhino 120s for dirt biking though and they're awesome. We play with them skiing too.

Edited by -Oz-
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My SAR team also uses geocaching as a way to get members familiar with how to use their GPS. They need to know how to input coordinates in both lat/long and UTM, as well as what effect using the wrong datum will have on locating their search area. On a muddy trail at 3:00 in the morning, in the rain and poison oak is not the time to try to remember how to do those things!

 

I sure do agree with that! Geocaching is a great and fun way to practice these skills...both by map&compass and by GPS. We are always in at least a 2-person team (minimum) and at least one of the team members better have this navigation stuff absolutely nailed. You mention both lat/long and UTM and one of the really great things I like on the 60CSx/76Csx is the ability to have both displayed simultaneously...we ground-pounders use UTM (NAD27 usually) exclusively while the helicopter pilots use lat/long. Also nice that they will properly convert a UTM point between datums. Between the helmet, glasses, headlamp(s), 24 hour pack, first aid supplies, rope equipment, bear spray, binoculars, big knife, the GPS, VHF radio, GMRS radio, cell phone, and pager it's a heck of a load and we are probably a walking electromagnetic disaster. We're using Mapsource Topo on the units (and Magellan equivalent, whatever it is) but the hard copy maps we're issued are from MapTech and much, much, much better. I would be one happy guy if Garmin would update the Topos and do them in 1:24,000.

 

rhitchco

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One more thing when considering a GPS is the display...

 

I've noticed that as I've grown more experienced in SAR, my eyes aren't quite as capable of seeing the tiny font in the eTrex Vista <_< But the display on the 60 Csx is a lot easier to read which was another good reason for upgrading!

 

As for maps, there are a couple of people in my unit working on making custom topo maps for the Garmin units which can use them...so I have custom 1:24,000 topos loaded into my 60 Csx for my county and neighboring counties where we may get called out for a mutual aid response.

 

There are some great threads in this forum about making your own custom maps that can be loaded into the Garmin mapping units. A bit daunting at first, but even I have been able to make my own and load them... :laughing:

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Thank you all for the outstanding suggestions you have taken the time to type out and help me make the decision for the department. Now we are at a point where I need to read about and decide what software to use for this project. Currently I'm looking at the MapTech Terrain Navigator Pro or the MapSource Topo.

 

Bill

Sale Creek Fire Department

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Thank you all for the outstanding suggestions you have taken the time to type out and help me make the decision for the department. Now we are at a point where I need to read about and decide what software to use for this project. Currently I'm looking at the MapTech Terrain Navigator Pro or the MapSource Topo.

 

Bill

Sale Creek Fire Department

If you buy Garmin, then you will have to use thier mapping. I you get a Megellen then you will have to use thier mapping.

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You can only LOAD Garmin Mapsource maps into your Garmin GPS (although there is a way to create your own custom topo maps and load those into your unit). If you're talking about which mapping software to use on a PC, then you can use pretty much any mapping software...Mapsource, National Geographic Topo, MapTech, ExpertGPS, etc.

 

A non-GPS specific mapping program will enable you to transfer waypoints, tracks and routes to and from almost any GPS. In other words, I don't think you can transfer data to a Magellan GPS from Mapsource, but you could transfer data from any GPS to NG Topo or Maptech Terrain Navigator and back to any GPS, whether it's a Garmin or Magellan.

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benjamin921,

 

So you are saying that if we purchase a Garmin, like the 76CSx we must use the Garmin MapSource Topo maps and not be able to use Maptech's Terrain Navigator Pro?

On their website they write:

Upload and download marks and tracks, but not maps, between your PC and popular GPS receivers. Download the maps to a Pocket PC running Pocket Navigator (sold separately).

It looks like you can connect a GPSr to a laptop running Terrain Navigator Pro and your location will be read from the GPSr and shown on the map. But if you were out in the field, you'd have to carry the laptop with you. Cumbersome. And if you were to get a Pocket PC and GPS antenna to run Pocket Navigator, durability would be an issue.

 

To have topo maps on a Garmin, Magellan, or Lowrance GPSr, you have to use the maps produced by the manufacturer of the handheld.

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Here's how this works in practice...

 

-While responding to a SAR mission, or upon arrival at the CP or staging area, call up the area of interest on MapTech Terrain Navigator Pro and get the EXCELLENT 1:24,000 topo maps from it (can also get arial view, road maps, etc).

- Print copies and distribute to each team leader. These will be MUCH more detailed than any GPS manufacturer's topo sets.

- The teams go into the field, each team equipped with a hardcopy of the MapTech map and a GPSr with the GPS manufacturer's topo map set (i.e. in case of Garmin, Mapsource Topo).

- The teams use the GPSr's with the built-in topo maps (i.e. Mapsource Topo) AND the printed maps (and compass, etc) to get to their assigned areas and conduct the search.

- The teams can periodically call in their locations to CP and/or a clue find and the search base can put a waypoint on Maptech...with team number and time and annotation (i.e. "Team 2, LOC 1000hr", "Team4 found shoe CLUE #6 1055hr)

- Upon completion of the assignment, the team returns to the command post, connects the GPSrs to the computer and uploads the tracks from the GPSr's to MapTech...the tracks (and waypoints) will be superimposed on the MapTech maps on the computer...giving an excellent idea of coverage...good enough to easily estimate POD's...and whether the area was covered adequately or needs to be redone.

- Do this for all of the teams. You end up with an excellent overview of all the searching that was done for the day, with tracks for each team.

- Continue this for every day of the search...keep adding tracks(different colors for each day or each team). You can annotate it with PLS or LKP, team ID's, etc. Measure distances, elevations, etc.

 

All this combines to create an excellent search management tool and the search managers will have an excellent picture of what's been done, what needs to be done, special features, items of interest, etc.

 

rhitchco

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Here's how this works in practice...

 

-While responding to a SAR mission, or upon arrival at the CP or staging area, call up the area of interest on MapTech Terrain Navigator Pro and get the EXCELLENT 1:24,000 topo maps from it (can also get arial view, road maps, etc).

- Print copies and distribute to each team leader. These will be MUCH more detailed than any GPS manufacturer's topo sets.

- The teams go into the field, each team equipped with a hardcopy of the MapTech map and a GPSr with the GPS manufacturer's topo map set (i.e. in case of Garmin, Mapsource Topo).

- The teams use the GPSr's with the built-in topo maps (i.e. Mapsource Topo) AND the printed maps (and compass, etc) to get to their assigned areas and conduct the search.

- The teams can periodically call in their locations to CP and/or a clue find and the search base can put a waypoint on Maptech...with team number and time and annotation (i.e. "Team 2, LOC 1000hr", "Team4 found shoe CLUE #6 1055hr)

- Upon completion of the assignment, the team returns to the command post, connects the GPSrs to the computer and uploads the tracks from the GPSr's to MapTech...the tracks (and waypoints) will be superimposed on the MapTech maps on the computer...giving an excellent idea of coverage...good enough to easily estimate POD's...and whether the area was covered adequately or needs to be redone.

- Do this for all of the teams. You end up with an excellent overview of all the searching that was done for the day, with tracks for each team.

- Continue this for every day of the search...keep adding tracks(different colors for each day or each team). You can annotate it with PLS or LKP, team ID's, etc. Measure distances, elevations, etc.

 

All this combines to create an excellent search management tool and the search managers will have an excellent picture of what's been done, what needs to be done, special features, items of interest, etc.

 

rhitchco

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I am a SAR crewman for the US Coast Guard and I thought I'd pop a little note in here that might make things easier when the need arises.

 

Be sure whatever GPS you decide on has the ability to convert between Lat/Lon formats on the fly and that it can be done easily. I have several GPS receivers and two of them don't have the ability to do anything but DDD MM SS.

 

Whenever we are specifying any position it is always in the decimal minutes format ( DDD MM.mmm ). Depending on whom you may be having assistance from you will probably run into this especially if you are getting air assistance.

 

You may also run into boaters who don't have anything but a Loran. (Been there. Done that.) Having a GPS that can switch between Loran locator to GPS is also a plus.

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Yea, as a member of ski patrol I wouldn't use the Rhino radios because they just can't go far enough. I would use regular high frequency radios and carry a cx or csx unit. That is what I do for backcountry stuff. Not to mention, using those radios means you can call a bird and they can talk to you.

 

I do use 2 rhino 120s for dirt biking though and they're awesome. We play with them skiing too.

 

For you SAR guys,

I'm surprised that there's not a more powerful version of the Rino's. I would think that having position automatically marked for everyone would be such a great advantage and time saver.

 

Last I looked Garmin is now allowed to use the GMRS frequencies (previously just FRS I believe) which means that you can now set up GMRS repeaters.

 

The truth is, with handy talkies, if your in the hills and hollars you ALWAYS need a repeater for reliable communication over miles. The fact is that VHF/UHF equipment is pretty much ""line of sight" and no matter what power your are pumping from your tiny handheld your going to be limited onrange..

 

I was thinking of getting my kids the rinos for when we take vactions in the mountains. I've seen too many horror stories of kids getting lost.

 

If you kid had a rino and was transitting and someone in a chopper or aircraft had one I think your kid would be found in short order.

 

I would like to entertain this topic so may start a new thread on this. Any comments are appreciated and welcomed.

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I'm posting a couple of pics from Google Earth of a trail that I ran 2 nights ago, looking for a missing Alzheimer's patient. I was using the Explorist 500 to record the track log. The track log shows the area covered by Miss Molly, both the positive direction of travel indications and also negative indications where she was working her way out of a vast scent pool.

 

The trail ended up being 28 miles in length; we ran it as a drop trail, loading up Miss Molly between legs and driving to the next position. She would give us another direction of travel, which was later confirmed by sightings by both private citizens and by law enforcement. We wound up losing the trail at a gas station in Linden, which was 28 miles from the PLS. Molly indicated that the man had entered the gas station by one door and exited by another, then she took me to the area where the 18 wheelers parked at the side of the station. She then gave me an end of trail. We suggested that the search continue looking north, up to Texarkana.

 

The man was found yesterday in Tucson, AZ. He had hitchhiked north along the highway to Texarkana, then went westward on I-30. He had covered over a thousand miles in about 48 hours.

 

General overview of entire trail:

 

trailOverviewJan2007Post.jpg

 

 

First leg of trail at PLS, showing two positive trails and area of scent pool:

 

Kelleyville_FirstLegOfDropTrail.jpg

 

Considering that I was attempting to keep the GPSr level (by tucking it on my shoulder) while running a bloodhound at night over uneven terrain along a highway and through fields, I was quite happy with how well the Magellan performed. The second and third legs of the drop trail show equally good detail-- enough that the people in this area will immediately recognize the locations.

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