Could OSM play a roll in this search and rescue effort/project?

Could OSM play a roll in this search and rescue effort/project

The article mentions SarTopo several times. SarTopo is a spin off of CalTopo and if you look at the default “build a map” layer in it you will find that it uses data from OSM.

So the answer to your question is yes, and it is already being done.

The SAR teams I know of use a range of software products (and thus a range of background maps) but it is pretty standard for the incident command to use GPS tracks from each search team to check and verify search coverage. In some cases teams are now using satellite links to get search team location updates in real time. In the US, at least the western US, SAR is generally run by the county sheriff’s office (exception being larger national parks). The capabilities of the sheriff departments can vary considerably (in California richer coastal counties have different resources than the poorer rural counties). So your mileage will vary considerably depending on where you get lost.

I should ask a different question. What about the groups that help with disasters? Are they OSM related? I thought they were.

I’d say our focus on disasters in OSM is very much on large scale humanitarian issues with extensive damage or loss of life affecting thousands to millions of people. There is are also capacity building activities, often in collaboration with NGOs. Probably the major focus of this work is in third world countries. That being said we mounted an extensive response to the Sendai Earthquake in 2011, ut this was very different because we had a strong community in Japan.

What OSM does is probably not so useful for SAR activities involving a small number of people as in the case of the missing hiker. In the main we can provide more detailed and often more accurate information than other sources, but because OSM data is patchy and partial it must be used alongside those other sources. It comes into its own when even the most accurate historical data is no longer valid and decisions need absolutely current information about general infrastructure: which buildings are still standing which roads are navigable etc).