Following a successful pilot programme in Norway, ViewRanger – the global mapping and navigation app – is set to be deployed by 30 of the Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) search and rescue teams.
After extensive trials and deployment in real rescue scenarios during which the app fulfilled a vital role for seven pilot teams, three further teams are set to be equipped with ViewRanger by the end of March. An additional 20 teams are expected to be using the app by the end of 2016.
Erlend Aarsæther, NPA search and rescue adviser, said: “ViewRanger has revolutionised the way in which our search and rescue teams can operate, saving a significant amount of time while searching for missing and injured persons.
“One of the biggest advantages ViewRanger offers, when compared to the way in which our search and rescues teams have operated traditionally, is that team leaders on location can send track logs to the command post and search managers at the command post can circulate new search parameters, without the need for anyone to return to the base.
“Whereas previously we might have spent one hour in every three, moving between search locations and the command post, we can now spend all three hours searching. This can mean the difference between life and death in some cases.”
Using Buddy Beacon – ViewRanger's location sharing feature – the app is also helping search and rescue teams in the field to support each other more effectively during a rescue operation.
Erlend added: “Buddy Beacon allows the command post to track team members accurately in real time and see exactly where a casualty has been located. Members of other teams involved in a search can also see where their colleagues are so when a casualty has been found those teams can move quickly to provide additional support.
“Relaying new missions including critical location data through ViewRanger also helps to prevent human error, reduces reliance on radio communications and speeds up the entire process.
“The app has also solved some of the other key issues facing Norway’s search and rescue teams including access to topographical mapping while offline. This is particularly important due to the nature of the terrain in which many operations take place.”
Following the pilot programme, significant interest in the app has also being expressed by the Norwegian Police, Red Cross and Rescue Dogs Association, to improve the efficiency of search and rescue operations across the country.
Craig Wareham, ViewRanger co-founder, said: “This is another significant milestone for ViewRanger. Its endorsement by these highly skilled search and rescue teams is testament to the app’s detailed mapping, sophisticated navigation capabilities and its wide range of other useful features such as Buddy Beacon.”
In 2014, ViewRanger was successfully deployed throughout France by the Gendarme mountain rescue teams across both the PGHM elite rescue teams that form part of the country’s High Mountain Gendarmerie and the PGM teams that hold responsibility for public safety in mid-mountain regions.
Craig added: “ViewRanger is already used by every Lowland Rescue team (ALSAR) and the vast majority of mountain rescue teams across England and Wales (MREW), Scotland (MRCoS), and Ireland. It is extremely satisfying to help these organisations fulfil their role more effectively, often in very challenging situations.”
Through its VSAR (Voluntary Search and Rescue) Program, ViewRanger equips accredited search and rescue teams throughout Europe, Canada and the USA with the very latest in GPS mapping, tracking and navigation technology.
The app is also being used increasingly by coastguard teams, PolSAR officers in police forces and other organisations that provide vital services such as the RNLI flood rescue.
ViewRanger is continuing to invest in developing new features for all outdoor recreational activities and runs on iPhone, iPad and on Android phones, tablets, and smart watches. It is free to download and users can plan, navigate, record and share their experiences free of charge.
Photos by Harald Wisløff (Wisloff/Norwegian Peoples Aid)