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The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization of teams dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education. They do so by improving the quality, availability, & safety of mountain search & rescue. With over 90 government authorized units, MRA has grown to become the critical mountain search & rescue resource in North America. Since 2014, the MRA has used ArcGIS Online to allow teams to map and enter mission data into a centralized hosted platform. In 2017, the MRA began using Survey123 which greatly improved this process.

Since 2018, several GISCorps volunteers have been deployed to MRA projects. Joe Luchette is the latest volunteer who was asked to assist with the following tasks:

  • Respond to technical questions (provide tech support).
  • Look into erroneous data entered into Survey123 or Dashboards; identify root causes; and correct the errors.
  • Provide AGO training to MRA volunteers.

He recently concluded his one-year service and submitted the following report.

By: Joe Luchette, GISP

My focus over the past 12 months volunteering for the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) has been around user support, data quality checks and archiving of the Mission Data. I enjoyed learning about different aspects of the Mission Data platform hosted on ArcGIS Online, such as the Portal, Data Collection Survey123 Form, Dashboards, the underlying schema and more.

I first began by responding to Team requests for assistance with their data. Requests included batch uploading data or extracting historical datasets. This provided good opportunities to gain a thorough understanding of the moving parts of the mapping system, such as the related records and Global IDs of the feature layer.

I then transitioned to undertaking the archiving process, which was traditionally an annual process that needed to be fully documented and if possible, improved upon. To do that I had to review what prior volunteers had completed in the past. The MRA is a pioneer in mapping Search and Rescue (SAR) mission data and as such, this platform has been around for several years through multiple updates, merges and improved developments. Therefore, the historical data schema has evolved which resulted in multiple datasets that had been frozen and “archived” when major Survey 123 form schema updates were released.

After much review and discussion, the team ultimately came to agreement that all the historical data should be merged with live datasets (i.e. the current schema). This resulted in creating several views to leverage and maximize usage of all the data in one comprehensive dataset. For example; historical vs. current year views; privileged views vs. public views where sensitive information is screened. Once the conflation was completed with the old and current datasets, powerful visualizations and interactive dashboards that aggregated meaningful statistics in real-time began to be created by team members. That allowed the MRA and participating teams across the country to fully leverage their data because it was all in one place.

Lasty, my participation focused on assisting other team members with implementing automated data quality checks to maintain the most reliable dataset possible. Errant mission locations, incorrect dates, missing information, and things of that nature need to be continually checked and improved and the team is making great progress to streamline that process.

Make no mistake, there is always more work to be done! More quality control mechanisms and reporting tools remain a top priority to further increase usability and reliability. I hope to maintain contact with the team to assist moving forward. It has been a very rewarding experience and I wish to thank GISCorps for the opportunity.

Project Completed.

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