Barbara Adcock is a Mathematics and Statistics & Modeling teacher at Motueka High School. She spent her Fellowship year at the Search and Rescue building attached to the local Police Station, investigating Lost Person Behaviour and meeting a number of key people working in the Search and Rescue field in New Zealand.
Prior to this Fellowship, no analysis of New Zealand data had previously been carried out, so there was a high degree of interest in the outcome of the study.
In February, as a background to where this information is used in Search and Rescue, Barbara learnt about the application of Lost Person Behaviour in the planning of major search operations, at a course at the Police College in Wellington. She was also closely involved back at base in 3 major local searches in May, which were run from the office where she worked.
Barbara spent a large proportion of her year cleaning and categorizing three data sets from Police records of searches, which started being collected electronically in July 2004. Very early in the year the data collection system was reviewed and meetings with the IT experts in Wellington contributed to improvements in the design of the electronic forms.
Not far into the year, Barbara noticed patterns occurring in the cleaned data sets. She used Chi squared goodness of fit tests to establish statistically significant differences between genuinely lost subjects and not lost subjects.
Subjects can be “not lost” but still missing for a variety of reasons: held up by flooded rivers, poor communication of intentions, underestimating terrain etc.
Barbara established that genuinely lost subjects are likely to travel longer distances than the complete data set would suggest. International figures do not separate these two types of data – and consequently make a blunt tool in predicting behaviour.
Analysis of the New Zealand data has contributed to ISRID (International Search & Rescue Incident Database) and part of Barbara’s work compared our data with that from overseas. Comparison of New Zealand hunters to data from overseas showed that New Zealand hunters are likely to travel significantly longer distances. This will have a direct impact on the planning of searches and will alter strategies such as where to place confinement.
NZ Land SAR and NZ Police are jointly funding the continuation of the work begun in this Fellowship.