TRACKS Emergency Responder
The TRACKS Emergency Responder project was done to improve safety on the White Mountains Trail System by installing coded trail marker diamonds approximately every 1/4 mile on the 200+ miles of the WMTS, gps'ing the location of each coded diamond, and providing that gps data and a map of all coded diamond locations to all regional emergency responder organizations and dispatchers, so that, if a trail user calls 911, they can tell the operator the code of the nearest diamond and be located more readily. The codes are simple to make it easier for 911 callers; so, for example, the Panorama trail codes are P1, P2, etc.
As a first step in TRACKS Emergency Responder project, all regional emergency responder organizations and dispatchers were contacted, briefed about the project, and asked for at least one and sometimes two names and emails of key contacts to receive the information; they were also asked what other ER organizations should be involved in this project, which provided more contacts
After receiving an Arizona Game & Fish Heritage Fund grant to help cover costs of materials for the project, 1500 white, reflective diamonds were ordered from Voss Signs and adhesive decals from a local firm (Hi Five Designs); TRACKS volunteers put the decals on the diamonds, then teams of TRACKS volunteers put the coded diamonds about every 1/4 mile on all 200+ miles of the White Mountains Trail System and gps'd the location of each coded diamond.
As each trail was completed, the gps points of each coded diamond were verified on TRACKS official trail maps, then the gpx file of gps points and a trail map was sent electronically to each emergency reponder group and dispatch office. This process worked well and did not overwhelm the ER orgs with too much data at one time. In addition to putting the electronic information into their mapping systems, several of the ER orginazations also made paper copies of the maps for quick reference by their field personnel. Most of them have computers in their field vehicles so they can call up the maps of the coded trails electronically. The coded diamond locations were also put on the WMTS trail maps that are available for free on this TRACKS website, so that trail users could print or download them to their own gps device for use on the trails. A notice was put on the trail maps and on the trailhead kiosks informing users that, in case of emergency, 911 callers should tell the operator the code of the nearest trail marker diamond and recommending that the caller remain by that location until help arrived.
Prior to this project, ER organizations would get calls for help from the trail system, but typically the callers did not even remember the name of the trail they were on; so the ER organization would have to send out several people and take hours to locate those in trouble. In September, there were 3 successful rescues, each of which was completed in 45 minutes or less because of the TRACKS Emergency Responder project.
TRACKS has been notified by the AZ Game & Fish Heritage Fund Administrator that the ER project will be highlighted as a "best use of Heritage Fund grant" project. In addition, the Arizona State Committee on Trails voted to recommend this project to State Parks as a possible model for other trail systems in Arizona.
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