MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The Mountaineer Area Rescue Group (MARG), based in Morgantown, has developed a new method for measuring search and rescue effectiveness.

MARG created a formula to determine how wide field sweeps need to be in particular search situations to make the probability of detection (POD) the highest. Search and rescue teams can use the information to make more informed decisions about what areas should be searched during land searches, such as deciding to search a site again or move to new areas.

The report was published in the January 2023 issue of the Journal of Search and Rescue.

The primary author of the new study and a search manager and dog handler with MARG, Ken Chiacchia, further explained the study’s significance. “When we begin a search, national data on how different types of missing people behave directs us to the areas we need to search. Often, we send searchers to those areas and we find the search subject. When we don’t get a find from this initial effort, though, it isn’t at all clear whether we need to send teams back to double-check the areas we’ve already covered or expand the search. Our paper shows we can use sweep width to determine POD accurately — and so figure out whether we need to return to some areas or move on to new ones.”

The data from the new method is already being used by MARG in searches in northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, according to the release. It also said that the same sweep width mapping technique may be tested for drone searches in the future as well.

The full study can be viewed here.