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Grid Search – A Vital Tool for OSRT Search and Rescue Operations

The Ohio Special Response Team is frequently called to search an area that could represent many square kilometers, or we may be called to search an area of only a few hundred square meters. This latter type of search, known as a grid search, is most often used when looking for clues or evidence. That evidence could often be as small as a bullet casing, cigarette butt, or even a single hair. Small evidence requires trained eyes to find and document for forensic purposes, especially when searching heavily wooded and/or rough terrain. At a recent monthly training, Unit 4 team members near Middletown, Ohio, practiced the management, collaboration, and focus that is involved in a detailed grid search.

Our "evidence" for this training exercise consisted of playing cards. A full deck of 54 cards (jokers were included) was distributed in a heavily wooded area. Team members first established "Critical Separation," or their spacing where, if the search objective is halfway between two searchers, the object will be within the limit of the visible range of both searchers. Another way to describe critical separation is to exert 100% coverage with maximum efficiency. This is to say that every portion of the area in question was searched exactly once, with no overlap, during the search effort.

As team members started their search, all were reminded to stay in their own lanes to avoid overlapping. They were also reminded to visually scan in their "searcher's cube" - not just looking down at the ground in front of them, but also up, left, right, forward, and back. As they located each piece of "evidence" they recorded it and flagged it. At the end of the exercise, the team had successfully located 36 cards, or 67%. Without getting too deep into a bunch of fancy math, this result exceeded the Probability of Detection (POD) of 63%, well above a typical search effort. Well done, team!

Bill Menker is captain of Ohio Special Response Team, Unit 4, located in Warren County, Ohio. His certifications include SARTECH II, Wilderness First Responder, Lost Person Behavior Instructor, FEMA Wide Area Search, and AFRCC Basic Inland Search. He is also a Disaster Action Team responder and a speaker/instructor with the Miami Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. Bill serves as Patron Services Manager at Washington-Centerville Public Library, in Centerville, Ohio.

Interested in becoming a member of a premier search and rescue team? Ohio Special Response Team would like to speak with you. OSRT is a FEMA rated ESF-9 Search and Rescue Team. Our members are credentialed in search and rescue by the National Association for Search and Rescue and the Mountain Rescue Association.


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