Three team members attend MREW 2013 Technology Day at Lancashire Constabulary Force Headquarters

This morning commencing at 10.00hrs at the excellent venue of Lancashire Constabulary Force Headquarters, our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Equipment Officer (Water) John Fletcher, and Team Webmaster and ‘all things IT’ Paul Brain, attended the MREW Technology Day event, last held four years ago.

Today was aimed at providing an event for Mountain Rescue to experience items of innovation and technology that others are developing or utilising at the current time, and provide an opportunity to discuss these items within the broad scope of Technology or Innovation with relevance to Mountain Rescue.

As such today was a mix of presentations and demonstrations, with ample time for Q&A and discussions after each presentation.

An excellent range of very interesting speakers was present with a wide ranging mix of topics.

The aim of the day was to bring ideas and solutions forward to Mountain Rescue members and fuel thought for future developments and ideas within the Mountain Rescue Community.

MREW President Peter Bell opened proceedings, followed by an introduction from Iain Nicholson of Bowland Pennine MRT, the very capable organiser of today.

The first session covered MR Map Developments by Dave Binks of Duddon and Furness MRT.

Dave has been developing MR map for a number of years to the product we have today.

MR Map has proven to be invaluable to Mountain Rescue teams as the platform for GPS tracking of multiple device types.

Dave provided an update and demonstration of the latest changes and new features introduced into the latest version of MR Map.

Next up was Andy Gamble of Simoco.

Simoco have been involved with communications in Mountain Rescue since the days of the original Pye sets. Andy gave an update on the new digital technology that’s appearing on the market from Simoco, and their roadmap for the next few years in this rapidly changing arena.

Simon Land, Senior Design Engineer at Primetech, the followed, giving a great overview of SatComs.

Tom Taylor MBE came next from RAF ARCC RAF Kinloss and a very experienced RAF MRS member.

Tom’s experience and knowledge of the current trends in the SAR Communications world is probably the best we have access to as Mountain Rescuers. Tom provided an update on what’s happening in the world with the use of technologies and innovations around Personal Locator Beacons and the SAR Satellite systems currently in use, focusing on the new MEOSAR (Medium Earth Orbiting SAR SAT) due to become operational in 2018.

A buffet lunch then followed, with a quick return at 13.15hrs to meet Stewart Devlin of Coniston MRT and Adrian Charlton of A.W.Communication Systems Limited, who gave a presentation on IP Control of remote radios.

The next speaker was Russ Hore with regards to SARLOC. Another piece of innovation from the UK is SARLOC. From an idea, Russ has developed SARLOC into a powerful SAR tool, which can be used by a number of methods. SARLOC is now integrated into MR Map for ease of access during incidents. As a method of locating missing people, SARLOC has been used widely across the world contributed to saving numerous lives and SAR man-hours. Russ’ work has also introduced a new phrase into the SAR dictionary – that of “being sarlocked” as a casualty! Russ informed those present that SARLOC has had 2,262 activations in SAR use since going live three years ago.

Chris Shuttleworth of the Lancashire Resilience Forum an Emergency Planning Officer for Ribble Valley Borough Council, gave an enlightening and very funny presentation on the Lancashire LRF and also the “big picture” of the on going work with other agencies, including the Cabinet Office. Chris also informed all of the proposed ‘Airwave’ replacement, namely the ESN Emergency Services Network.

Chris’s main message to all was the need for interoperability between all agencies involved in incident responses.

John Hulse of Ogwen Valley MRT and NWMRA, was next up explaining the latest developments within SARCALL.

At the first Technology Day in 2009, John also presented an innovation called SARCALL, which is in use with most teams today.

The development work John and his team have put in since 2009 has given us a system that is extremely versatile, and also exploits modern day mobile phone technology as well as the “core” system. John updated all present on the SARCALL developments and roadmap from the SARCALL team, outlining the current users and calling authorities (62x SAR teams / 10x authorities).

Steve Wood, Chairman of Mapyx and Simon Jeffs, Technical Director of Mapyx was next on the programme.

Mapyx, as MREW’s mapping partner, kindly provide their SARMAN produce free of charge to MREW teams in support of the work they do. SARMAN has changed greatly over the past four years, with Steve and Simon updating all of the new features appearing in the product, and its use outside of the mountain rescue community.

The last presentation came from Tom Grindley Of Garmin Limited, who gave an overview of their GPS extensive product range.

The day ended close to 17.00hrs, with closing addresses by both MREW Presdent Peter Bell and the days organiser Iain Nicholson, both pledging with the support of all present, to hold this day on an annual basis, possibly over a weekend rather than one day.

Garry, Paul and John would like to thank Iain Nicholson of Bowland Pennine MRT for organising such an interesting day, and to all the guest presenters for their informative sessions.