Topo maps and switch to NAD 83

The US Forest Service has updated the Topo maps that cover our region.

The maps we were using were last updated in 1971 and used the NAD 27 Datum.  These maps use NAD 83 so you should change the Datum setting on your GPS.  Using the wrong Datum can produce an error of as much as 50 meters.

There are a total of 36 maps.  Printing full size (24″ x 36″) color maps would cost $30 each so we’re not going to be doing that.  Instead, when we’re preparing for a mission, we will print (using a color printer at the EOC) the portion of the map we need.

Several of us have been investigating smart phone mapping applications and at this moment, Avenza Maps seems to be the best.  Avenza will read these Forest Service Maps (they are in .pdf format) and display them on your smart phone much like a high end GPS.  The free version of Avenza will allow you to have three maps loaded into it.  The Pro version ($99/year) supports an unlimited number of maps.

There are two methods of accessing these Topo maps:

1) We’ve setup a DropBox account under userid: and password “????” [eMail for password].  Avenza can access the DropBox account and load maps into the application.  The problem with this approach is that you will need Internet access to load a map into Avenza.

2) [iPhone] Using iTunes you can add all the maps to the application where they will then be accessible to the Avenza import function under “From iTunes File Sharing”.  With this method you can have all the maps on your phone and load the ones you need while in the field.

2) [Android] Connect your phone as a USB device and copy the .pdf files to the Internal Storage of your phone.  Avenza can then import the Topo maps from the Device Storage.  With this method you can have all the maps on your phone and load the ones you need while in the field.

If you want to browse/print some maps, in addition to the DropBox account, they are also on your web server:

“Go Packs”

We’ve put together five identical “Go packs” that are now stored in the SAR truck.

Situations where you might want to use one of these packs:

  • Your skiing/boarding at Wolf Creek and get a page about someone lost or maybe an avalanche at Lobo.  You’re probably already dressed adequately, but your gear is at home in Pagosa Springs.
  • You are a new member, want to respond to what could be an overnight mission but don’t have overnight gear.
  • We want to bring someone along (maybe an outfitter who has detailed knowledge of the trails in an area) but they don’t have any gear with them.

Contents of each “Go Pack”:

  • Osprey Atmos 50 liter pack
  • 0 – degree sleeping bag inside pack
  • Thermarest Pad which can be attached to pack using already attached bungee cords
  • Bottom compartment: 1 MRE & plastic silverware, emergency Bivy Bag, 2 Heavy Duty trash bags
  • Top Compartment: leather gloves, headlamp & battery (note: battery has not been placed into headlamp)
  • Outside pocket: one 1 Liter Nalgene bottle
  • In the pack waist band pocket are 2 pair of surgical gloves

Before you leave the trail head with one of these packs you’ll need to fill the Nalgene bottle with water and grab some snack bars.

Responding to SAR callouts

At a general meeting last month there were some questions about the terminology we used for callouts & how to respond.  I can understand the confusion because in the past we used the term “Hasty Team” for something different.

Here is our current usage:

“Assessment Team” – small team (probably 2 people) who get to the reporting party or the area where the incident occurred ASAP and determine what response we should initiate (if any).  Often the reported location is wrong or inaccurate.  If additional resources are required, the Assessment Team will determine where they should stage & what equipment they should bring.

“Hasty Team” – If/when we have a known location and injury, a hasty team will be sent with the equipment.  It’s possible this might be the only response.  An example would be if someone is lost, found by a helicopter search and a ground team is sent to lead them back to a trail head.  It’s also possible that the hasty team is sent to stabilize a patient and is followed by a larger group to perform an extraction.

So it’s possible that an Assessment Team goes out & determines no response is necessary (the lost hunter walks out of the woods while they are interviewing the reporting party).  Or it’s possible that a Hasty Team is our first response (CDOT reported a vehicle just went off the highway at the Overlook & EMS needs assistance getting to the driver).

When a SAR callout is initiated, it would be helpful for the incident command people to know who and how many people are responding.  The assessment team is possibly driving down a forest road while talking on their radio, so do NOT call/text them.   Either call the EOC or use the Active911 app to indicate you are responding.  Do NOT call the EOC to tell them you’re not able to respond.  After you get an Active911 callout it often takes 15-20 minutes to get the EOC staffed, so give them time to get operating before you call.

You can also use the Active911 app to indicate that you are responding.  In the details of the callout you will see some boxes like this:


Press the appropriate one (“Resp” if you are responding, “Avail” if you could respond but aren’t or “Unvl” if you are unavailable.

The assessment team does not monitor Active911 (remember.. they are driving down a forest road talking on their radio) but the EOC does and will update the Incident Command.



Personally owned SPOT units

During the search for the missing airplane near Buckles Lake we had several ground teams using SPOT units, some owned by USJSAR and some personally owned.   IMG was trying to use the data from them to keep track of ground teams and the areas which had been searched.  The problem they had is that they had to monitor multiple web pages, one for each SPOT account.  Determining where one ground team was in relation to another was difficult at best.

I looked into how this could be improved and couldn’t find any available software so, being a programmer in my paying job, I wrote some.  If you think you might someday carry your personally owned SPOT on a SAR mission, I’d like to get the information we would need to track you.  You’ll need to setup a Shared Page for your SPOT unit.  You’ve probably already done this so your friends/family can track you.  You can setup a new shared page, or I can use an existing one.  If you need help setting up a Shared page, let me know.   What I need is the string of characters at the end of the URL you see when viewing your shared page.  It will look something like this:


If the Shared page is password protected, I’ll need to know the password too.

Jim Bodoh

LaPlata County SAR: 2014-2015 Winter Training

  • Dec. 3, 10 & 17 – Transceiver practice 5pm-6pm at Riverview Elementary
  • Dec. 13 – Ice rescue near Eureka in SJ county
  • Jan 4 – Tri-county Snow/avalanche w/ SJ and Ouray counties, Tri-State Air Care, Molas Pass
  • Feb 7 – Open to general membership at DMR, probe lines, winter survival, Flight-for-Life
  • March 14 – LaPlata canyon motorized w/ Mancos VFD
  • Late Feb/early March TBD winter travel and patient packaging and transport at St. Paul Lodge
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