Researchers at the University of Portsmouth's Sports Science and Mathematics departments and the U.S. Coast Guard are developing a computer model to predict how long someone will survive when lost at sea, which will in turn determine when to stop a search-and-rescue operation. Called the Search and Rescue Survival Model, the computer model aims to support the U.S. Coast Guard target of saving 93 per cent of victims annually - between 3000 to 6000 people - whose lives are in danger at sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard currently uses a software system known as SAROPS (Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System) to calculate how far a person will have drifted and how large the search area should be. Data such as wind speed, sea state, and water temperature are entered along with information about the victim's sex, height, weight, and clothing, to determine exactly how the search should be conducted.
"Using this new computer model will take pressure off humans making very emotional and sensitive decisions about when to end a search," said Professor Mike Tipton, human and applied physiologist from the University of Portsmouth. "When the model predicts that a victim can no longer survive, the search-and-rescue team can stop or redeploy the search. It will ensure that Coast Guard personnel are not exposed to the high risks associated with search-and-rescue operations any longer than necessary, and will also help to save time and resources," he said.