Cell phone locations

The SAR team has had a run of searches at inopportune times. The first one was after an all night search, so we rolled from the first search, into breakfast (at 11:00), into a rescue out near Widgeon Falls. All wrapped up by 16:30, approximately 22.5 hours of task.
The second one was right after our Tuesday evening town hall recruitment session. We’d just wrapped up the presentation and were talking to some of the new applicants when the SAR manager’s pagers started going off. Straight from the town hall to another overnight search, back hope and in bed by 04:00.

Today we did the recruitment hike, where we invited all of the prospective SAR members for a friendly hike so we could get to know then and begin the selection process. Of course, when the SAR manager’s pagers started going off just after the last applicant left, we were worried.

However it turned out to be an interesting search.
Missing girl, RCMP ask the cell phone company to find the location of her cell. In the past this has resulted in wildly inaccurate information. In once case we got three cell tower locations, well more like ID numbers, and the angle from the antenna. Not the angle as in 0 to 360 degrees, but the offset from the direction one of the three antennas were facing. Definitely not CSI. In another case we got a circle of radius 2km, which did not narrow down the search area.
However, this time we get a bona fide coordinate! A latitude and longitude, and an estimate of 16m error. It turns out the the government around here decided to tell the phone company to get their act in gear and turn the cell-phone-based location system ON.
So it turns out that after showing up that the missing girl is in fact at her boyfriend’s place, but just for interests sake we (the SAR manager, two RCMP officers and myself) decide to see how accurate this location is.
The the location we received was about 100m from the truck. So we walk along the road, and when we’re as close as we can get to the coordinate, we head into the bush, two SAR members and two RCMP. 80m, 70m, 40m, 35, 20, 10… and at 5 meters from the given location we break out onto a small trail built by local kids to do mountain bike jumps. Can’t be a coincidence, the location related to use is a trail in the middle of the bush.
Well, we didn’t find the phone, but we’re pretty sure that she made a call from that location. Looks like what you see on CSI is coming true.
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