WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Each year over 2,000 people get lost on hikes in the wilderness. It's critical to survival for search and rescue teams to find hikers within a few hours.
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Rescuers are using a new method to find missing persons sooner.
Temple Lee loves to hike, and he's always prepared for the worst.
"In case I get lost, I make sure that I have plenty of supplies in my daypack," Lee told Ivanhoe.
Temple is a skilled hiker, but one step in the wrong direction and anyone can get lost. Hundreds of hikers go missing each year, and when search and rescue teams are called, timing is everything.
"About 10 percent of the cases turn out to be what I call the difficult cases, where the subject hasn't been found in 24 hours," Robert Koester, Ph.D., a neurobiologist at DBS Productions in Charlottesville, Va., told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Koester studies how lost people behave and has developed new methods to find more lost hikers faster and more easily.
"I tried to create models that predict where you could find a missing person," Dr. Koester said.
Using the science of operations research, his new mathematical models predict travel directions of lost persons, what types of terrain people might be found in, if people travel up or downhill, and if people follow a road or trail -- all factors that are put into models to help narrow down search efforts.
The models were put to the test when rescuers came up empty after searching for five days for a lost hiker in Wisconsin. After using the new models, a bloodhound and a ground searcher arrived at the same location within 15 minutes. The hiker was found.
"You want the people with the best training and the most recent research to figure out where to send the search teams, because if a search team isn't sent to the right place, you're not going to be found," Dr. Koester said.
"Anyone that's been in the woods will have that feeling where you need to take a second look at the map and do a little bit of thinking," Lee said.
The American Mathematical Society , the Mathematical Association of America and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.