NZ dog walker rescued by GPS app

A young woman has Kiwi software ingenuity to thank for her speedy rescue from deep inside a Waikato forest over the weekend.


6574674975_692bee162d_oThe 25-year Te Kuiti woman made a 111 call from her smartphone after getting lost while walking her dogs in Pureora Forest near Taupo, North Island, on Sunday.

With the help of an innovative new software application, emergency services were able to quickly source her GPS co-ordinates, and send search and rescue volunteers directly to her.

Three hours later, she was rescued from one of the most remote parts of the rainforest park.

The technology, designed by New Zealand company Mobile Locate, has been trialled by several police districts over the past eight months.

Its development follows an inquest into the 2010 death of a drunken Otaki man who was hit by a car while walking along a dark stretch of highway at night.

In the minutes before his death the man, Jason Roach, had made several slurred calls to 111 pleading for help, but the operator couldn’t determine his location.

At the 2013 inquest, police called for new technology that would give GPS data on callers when requested so emergency services could respond faster and more accurately.

One year on, the new technology is in action across much of New Zealand.

Waikato search and rescue co-ordinator Constable David Pitchford says the new technology has now been used to rescue two lost bush walkers in the district, with impressive results.

Explaining how it works, he said the application accesses the GPS capability on a smartphone and relays it to the user, in this case the police.

“As well as enabling us to ensure the safety of missing persons faster, the Mobile Locate program also reduces the hours during call outs that require the substantial contribution of volunteer Land Search and Rescue teams,” Const Pitchford said.

“Anything we can do to ensure a speedy and safe resolution of missing person incidents while also reducing the call on volunteers’ time is a real positive from the police’s perspective.”

He stressed that while smartphones could be life-saving, they weren’t an alternative to good pre-trek preparation and basic bush safety skills.