Mountain Rescue - and how to task it.

Wee Hawken

War Hero
Some “lessons identified” from a recent incident:

You are at 700m in a bleak and mountainous part of the UK, descending from one of the local peaks. You come across someone who has slipped and fallen, and it is quickly apparent that he has a badly broken or dislocated ankle. What do you do?

Logic suggests that you call 999 and, given that you have a casevac on your hands, you ask for “ambulance” rather than “fire” or “police”....

The ambulance Operator takes your details, and, in line with their protocols, quickly decides that your casualty only has a broken ankle and is not really a priority. He or she is in a distant call centre, is probably not a hill walker, sticks rigidly to the script, asks you some rudimentary questions, and leaves your details “on the system” to be reviewed by a “clinician”. This takes time: after all it’s only an ankle so not a big priority, right? There are people out there having heart attacks and strokes and stuff, and of course Pestilence Stalks The Land.

Time goes by with no call-back, and no sign of action. Every hour or so you call again and go with increasing irritation through the same process. You point out that the only ambulance that is going to reach your location is one with rotor blades on. They note this politely, but fail to point out that the questions (above) were carefully designed to identify any immediate ”risk to life or limb”. (In the absence of these, your chances of an air ambulance arriving at your location are precisely zero: an ankle doesn’t cut it, unless the casualty has lost all sensation in their foot). Hours pass, and your casualty is becoming just a little bit cold and miserable…

Eventually the penny drops and you start getting stroppy on the phone, escalate to the supervisor etc, and the Mountain Rescue is duly tasked, reaching you with a 10-strong team within an hour of being called out. Your casualty is handled with superb compassion and professionalism and is duly extracted to the nearest A&E after five or six miserable hours on the side of a bare-arrsed hill.

Lesson identified:

1. That you should assume that the call centre may not really understand what it’s like to smash yourself up on the side of a hill and how quickly things can go pear-shaped. They’re in a comfy office: your casualty is not.

2. That a helicopter is not going to appear over the horizon unless your casualty is about to keel over or there is a real chance of his leg dropping off.

3. That the level of liaison between different 999 elements (at the call centre / tasking level) may be surprisingly, and disappointingly, poor.

4. That the Mountain Rescue are absolutely superb and will do everything that it takes to get your casualty off the hill, in as much comfort as possible, as fast as can be reasonably achieved.

5. That the Mountain Rescue is tasked by 999/Police and NOT by 999/Ambulance. If you need Mountain Rescue, call 999 and ask for the Police. This may save you several hours.

6. Oh, and if you fancy a day out in the hills, then wear some decent fcuking footwear.
 
.....

4. That the Mountain Rescue are absolutely superb and will do everything that it takes to get your casualty off the hill, in as much comfort as possible, as fast as can be reasonably achieved.

5. That the Mountain Rescue is tasked by 999/Police and NOT by 999/Ambulance. If you need Mountain Rescue, call 999 and ask for the Police. This may save you several hours.

"Police, ask for Mountain Rescue" has been SOP for as long as I can remember. Same for the Coastguard if you see an incident at sea. It was on the front inside page of every phone book. Still is if people have such a thing!

I've noticed a trend for Ambulance services themselves to call out MR to help them. They seem to be incapable of the simplest carry-off, even on decent well-surfaced paths near the road, and prefer volunteers to leave their homes or work to do it for them.
 
I recently mentioned on the "Hill Walking Stupidity" thread, with winter approaching I'm revising what I carry, but trying to keep the weight down. I do have a spare mobile and I've recently replaced a space blanket with one of the bag versions. These are light but better than nothing to keep water and wind off if you're stuck. Something that could help a casualty if not yourself.

IIRC, lower limb injuries and medical emergencies i.e. heart attacks, are the two biggest items in the MR statistics.

A thought-provoking OP anyway.
 

A.N.Other

War Hero
Mountain Rescue is tasked by ambulance control.

I've been in an MRT for 12 or 13 years and I'm a coordinator (first point of contact for police and ambulance) for our MRT in Wales. We get lots of calls raised by the Welsh Ambulance Service. Maybe WAST are better than other regions but we are usually alerted within minutes of ambulance control getting the first 999 call if HART aren't available or if its outside their capabilities.

I prioritise the incident (life threatening injury, location, weather, etc.) then call out the team and manage the response until we have a control set up at the RV. I can request air ambulance and coastguard heli if its a serious incident. I also call other team sor support (including AsterixGT's) if we don't have enough available bodies or if it looks like a labour intensive incident.

All in all the process works well. Not perfect but we rarely have issues.

As for 1 hour to the casualty. You'll be lucky in Wales!

Some teams in England cover an area small enough that their incident control is in their base, as their radios have the range to reach all parts of their area. In Wales it may take us an hour just to get to a location where we can set up control. Many times I've tasked a heli and they get to the cas before our guys get to the RV.
 

Old Stab

LE
Book Reviewer
If I'm going to be going out now I pay close attention to the weather forecast. I only walk rather locally but still, if the weather closes in its far to easy to become disoriented and end up lost.
With the terrain here it's also very bloody easy to turn an ankle or walk off the edge of some quite high drops.
 
Did an EFAW+Forestry course with our shooting syndicate. It was set up for forestry workers rather than stalkers in the woods and out on the hills, so things rather like chainsaw injuries, but he knew who we were and tailored a lot of it accordingly.

His message pretty much mirrored the OPs: Try to make sure they are not going to die, then get help. Leave the casualty and move if you need to. You will not help them sitting by them holding their hand with no-one coming. Call Police and ask for Mountain Rescue*.

Forget calling the ambulance, even if they can locate you (“what’s your postcode please?”), and decide you are a high enough priority, a lot of the time they will just send an ambulance who will get to the nearest point on a metalled road that they can, then report they can’t reach you. MR will then probably be called, but much time has been wasted.

Register your phone with the Emergency Services. Have an app on your phone that will generate an accurate position, that you can send. A text will often get through when a call won’t. He recommended OS LOCATE.

I’m only paraphrasing what he taught us, other opinions may be available!

*or ring my friend Stu round the corner, he’s MR.
 
.....His message pretty much mirrored the OPs: Try to make sure they are not going to die, then get help. Leave the casualty and move if you need to. You will not help them sitting by them holding their hand with no-one coming. Call Police and ask for Mountain Rescue*.....

Hard thing to do but so often the right decision, you've explained it very well.

I said on here the other week, I now carry a hi-vis vest all the time. Mainly for my own benefit but it's something I could leave with a casualty to help with re-location.
 
My community first responder group had a training session with our local MRT, they recommended what 3 words, I didn't think it would work up a mountain.
 
My community first responder group had a training session with our local MRT, they recommended what 3 words, I didn't think it would work up a mountain.

I think it can work anywhere, but I've seen a lot of comments about errors and inaccuracy, including criticism from MRT's themselves! I don't see the point myself when we have NGR's.
 
I was in the UK for the last couple of weeks and went up the low and easy Cader Idris out of (family-related) boredom. Chatting to some other walkers on the way down, they were amazed that I had spare-clothing, a small headtorch, a big (but light) plastic bag in my small 20ltr bag, and a map and compass. They were using a smartphone with gps instead of knowing where they were. Only the tops were in cloud, but that could have easily changed any minute.

Anyway, the most worrying thing was when we reached the descending bit of the Minfordd path -- they slowed to almost zero speed and were holding on to each other as they came down, apparently in marginally sub-panic mode. It is a made up, though rough-ish, path. It isn't surprising that people get in to problems when they literally can't walk, and these were thirty-somethings, not geriatrics like me.

ETA: Well done to the OP for doing the right thing(s).
 
I think it can work anywhere, but I've seen a lot of comments about errors and inaccuracy, including criticism from MRT's themselves! I don't see the point myself when we have NGR's.
We have airwaves pagers, we get tracked in real time. If I get stuck going on a shout, I phone my control room and they talk me in to the address of the incident.
 
We have airwaves pagers, we get tracked in real time. If I get stuck going on a shout, I phone my control room and they talk me in to the address of the incident.

A bus driver told me they have something that does that, with a "panic button" in case of assault of other emergencies.
 
I think it can work anywhere, but I've seen a lot of comments about errors and inaccuracy, including criticism from MRT's themselves! I don't see the point myself when we have NGR's.

Agreed. It’s too easy to make a mistake passing the words. One letter wrong can put it on the other side of the world. On my local hill, close to where someone was airlifted off last weekend, is this one:
62E70E4A-F1B1-47E6-975F-7C800ED95C43.png


Get a letter wrong, or it’s misheard over a crap phone signal with the wind whistling in the mouthpiece and you can have:

ADA6A480-12CC-4BFF-BEE2-F3B40D824560.png



9951792B-D1F3-4D68-8EAA-98ECA8438055.png

382C3D01-AED3-4F03-8F08-0F8C165D4BED.png


It’s a very clever idea, but not popular with MR.
 
I was in the UK for the last couple of weeks and went up the low and easy Cader Idris out of (family-related) boredom. Chatting to some other walkers on the way down, they were amazed that I had spare-clothing, a small headtorch, a big (but light) plastic bag in my small 20ltr bag, and a map and compass. They were using a smartphone with gps instead of knowing where they were. Only the tops were in cloud, but that could have easily changed any minute.

Anyway, the most worrying thing was when we reached the descending bit of the Minfordd path -- they slowed to almost zero speed and were holding on to each other as they came down, apparently in marginally sub-panic mode. It is a made up, though rough-ish, path. It isn't surprising that people get in to problems when they literally can't walk, and these were thirty-somethings, not geriatrics like me.

ETA: Well done to the OP for doing the right thing(s).
See your first sentence says everything, low and easy….

The height and terrain is irrelevant when the weather hits, I’ve been up the Cadair many times, I’ve also not been up it many times when I got to the shoulder before the summit track.
 

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