When Dave Hubbell joined the Ramapo Rescue Dog Association three years ago, he discovered that its first responders relied on a pen and paper at Basecamp to manage their K9 search and rescue missions. A quick Google search led him to Mission Manager – the software tool that would forever change the way they would do business. Mission Manager gave the New Jersey-based organization the tools they needed to fulfill their mission – to locate missing persons and save lives – efficiently and effectively.
“We love Mission Manager. It plays a huge role in helping us manage our equipment, plan our training sessions and organize our mobilizations,”said Hubbell, a retired corporate pilot who serves as the group’s Mission Manager Administrator and radio operator. Hubbell also utilizes Mission Manager for NJ DSTAR ham operators group and as a trial for the Sparta Township Community Emergency Response Team.
Hubbell is among 25 volunteers with the Ramapo Rescue Dog Association, which utilizes air-scenting German Shepherds to help locate missing individuals in wilderness and disaster situations. A handful of its volunteers and their canines were on-hand at the national NASAR conference, June 4-6, in New Jersey to showcase their organization and attend various educational and training sessions.
“Being a volunteer combines several loves – working with your best friend who’s devoted to you and also having the opportunity to serve the community. We all have a great passion for what we do,” said Penny Sullivan, the group’s operational leader who was among the founding members.
The association, established in 1971, is a member of the National Association of Search and Rescue, and the Search and Rescue Council of New Jersey. Since then, the association has conducted numerous searches throughout the Eastern and Central United States, including finding missing persons in wilderness and urban areas, crime scene evidence recovery, and large scale disasters such as Ground Zero.
“With the proliferation of GPS apps on cell phones, we have fewer and fewer missing persons cases these days, so unfortunately, many of our missions involve locating human remains,” said Sullivan. “It is extremely rewarding, in either case, when we do find a missing person –thanks to the help of our K9 friends.”
It is not easy – or cheap – becoming certified as a Search and Rescue K9 team, she noted. Both the dog and handler must complete two years of intensive training and pay for their own expenses, including gas and equipment. The training consists of first responder medical training; K9 medical training; and map, compass and GPS navigation training. The area of training is in wilderness, urban and water rescue, both live and cadaver.
The association’s operational teams and other volunteers continue training twice monthly to keep their skills sharp. As with the actual deployments, the volunteers rely on Mission Manager to organize their training sessions. The software helps them develop the mock scenarios, including checking-in and checking-out personnel, creating subject profiles, setting up task assignments and mapping out the search areas.
In fact, Hubbell says the most frequent uses of Mission Manager are the forms, maps and tasking capabilities. “We certainly put it to good use for our searches – particularly the mapping functions, which are critical when operating in rugged wilderness terrains,” he said. “Along these lines, I would like to commend the developer, Mike Baily. The product is excellent and can only get better.”
For more information about the Ramapo Rescue Dog Association, see www.ramaporescuedog.org