Search + Rescue = Math

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SAR math
JUNEAU, Alaska – Operations Specialist 1st Class Sean Terry answers a student’s question during a search and rescue presentation at Dzantiki’I Heeni Middle School in Juneau Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. Hudak is a command duty officer in the 17th Coast Guard District rescue coordination center in Juneau. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Shinn.

Just how does the Coast Guard find a person in the vast ocean with not much more to go on than a radio mayday call? It takes training, experience and… math.

Recently, search and rescue coordinators in the 17th Coast Guard District ventured out of the radio room and into a sixth-grade class to show students the importance of math when conducting search and rescue.

Between calculating drift, developing search patterns and predicting time on scene, Lt. j.g. Crystal Hudak and Operations Specialist 1st Class Sean Terry know first-hand how much math is involved in SAR planning. They talked to students at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School in Juneau, Alaska, about how calculations and probability are used in almost every aspect of rescuing a person in distress.

SAR math
JUNEAU, Alaska – Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Terry and Lt. j.g. Crystal Hudak explain the importance of math in search and rescue to a class at Dzantiki’I Heeni Middle School in Juneau Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Shinn.

Terry used the example of a vessel that is taking on water. He explained to the class how he first estimates the gallons-per-minute the vessel is flooding and then determines how much the boat can handle before it sinks. He then calculates how much time it will take Coast Guard vessels, airplanes or helicopters to arrive on scene to assist the mariners. These two calculations help him predict whether the rescuers will be looking for the boat or people in the water.

“Demonstrating the importance of math and how to apply it to real life can inspire students to appreciate the subject more,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mia Dutcher, 17th District Command Center Chief. “This holds especially true when it can directly lead to saving a person’s life.”

To read the full story in the Juneau Empire, click here.

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