The Global “Network” Powering Search and Rescue

In Search and Rescue, there is one primary objective: saving lives.  The mission is critical in any language.

Worldwide every year, nearly half a million people drown, 24,000 fishermen tragically die while on the job or simply recreating, and more than 700 people perish in commercial airline crashes.  In the US alone, nearly 5,000 fatalities per year are attributed to maritime or boating accidents.
When we read or watch television stories of seemingly miraculous “survivors”— hikers plucked from remote frozen mountain tops, boaters saved after falling overboard in choppy seas, stranded passengers rescued after emergency airplane landings, families reunited after deadly natural disasters—we often feel happiness and a sense of relief that someone survived a potentially tragic end.

But very often lost in these amazing survivor stories are the products, people and processes behind the rescue—the technology innovations, experts, authorities and professional communities around the globe that make up a search-and-rescue ecosystem that has helped save more than 37,000 lives since 1982 .

The Network That Saves Lives

If you ask people for their definition of “network,” responses vary.  Coming from a technology background, I’ve traditionally viewed the term as a group of products and equipment working together—a broadband communications network, a cellphone network, a local/wide area network.  But in the context of search and rescue, “network” takes on a much broader and more comprehensive meaning.  Just consider for a moment:

  • A Network of Technologies – What hardware and software products make up the technological network behind search and rescue?
  • A Network of Experts – Who are the inventors and innovators developing these hardware and software products?
  • A Network of Rescuers – What exactly is the search and rescue process—and who are the extraordinary people behind the scenes of Mission Control Centers and Rescue
    Coordination Centers?
  • A Network of End-Users and Survivors – Ultimately, who are the end-users of these technologies, and who are the survivors alive today because of them?  What advice can they give to maximize your chance of being rescued should you ever be in that challenging situation?

Over the coming weeks, our blog will begin to answer these questions by highlighting different elements of the search and rescue “network” in more detail.  Be sure to bookmark this page as one of your favorites, share with your colleagues and stay tuned for more information on “The Network That Saves Lives.”


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1) COSPAS-SARSAT Satellite-Based Search and Rescue Statistics