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Saving lives in wild and remote places

Logo: © SRMRT /Mountain Rescue England and Wales

By Ian Hugill, Incident Controller and Public Relations Officer

History

In winter 1964 walkers getting lost or injured on the increasingly popular Lyke Wake Walk prompted discussion over actions needed to improve the safety of those walking across the tops of the National Park.

person reading a map standing next to a pond on the moor
Orientate yourself to the lay of the land © SRMRT

The result was the formation of Scarborough and District Search and Rescue Team in July of 1965 with twelve volunteers. Our first callout was in October 1965.

While we still probably deploy a couple of times a year to those lost or in distress on the Lyke Wake Walk the mix of incidents and the area we cover have significantly changed. A few years ago we changed our name to Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team to better reflect our skills and equipment.

Our ‘patch’ now covers the south east of the National Park, Dalby Forest, The Yorkshire Wolds and west as far as York, some 1785 square miles.

Incidents

Deploying to help outdoor enthusiasts continues but has diversified from just hill walkers to include mountain bikers, horse riders and people simply enjoying the great outdoors when something goes wrong. Increasingly though the Police and other statutory blue light services use us to help find those with mental health issues and missing from home, be that suffering from the likes of Dementia, Alzheimer’s or those intent to self-harm or worse.

A compass and map resting on top of a high vis jacket
The team still rely on waterproof maps and compasses to help us navigate © SRMRT

Be Adventure Smart

The team is a registered charity and part of our remit is to educate, we strongly promote the #beadventuresmart initiative. This suggests you ask yourself three simple questions before you head into the hills:

  • Do I have the right equipment for the activity I am about to embark on and can I use it proficiently?
  • What is the weather doing now, through the day and when I plan to return?
  • Do I have the skills and experience for the activity I intend to undertake?

If you can answer all those questions positively then you are unlikely to need our assistance however accidents still happen and there may be the day when you are relieved to see a group of red jackets heading over the hill to your assistance.

Smartphones

There is no doubt that smartphones can enhance your day on the hills and inevitably if you do need our help then you will be using a mobile phone to make that 999 call, gone are the days that you carry loose change and head to the nearest village to call for help from a red phone box. If you call the Police or Ambulance these days their control rooms are likely to ask you to determine your location using the likes of the ‘What 3 Words’ app on your mobile phone.

The team are the first to admit that we carry smartphones, they are a positive benefit for what we do and we have technology to locate you via a mobile phone signal. However:

  • If you need help then you need a working phone, with charge left in the battery and a signal. All too often when people need help they find their phone is broken, water damaged or with a flat battery. Our advice is to very much to ensure at last one phone in the party is kept safe, warm and charged. Carrying a small charged battery pack is also strongly recommended. Make sure it is charged before you set out and kept warm.
  • While there are multiple mapping apps available for mobile phones the team still rely on waterproof maps and compasses to help us navigate. Maps show a considerably larger area than the screen of a smartphone, better allow you to orientate yourself to the lay of the land, tell a story about the countryside and the ability to navigate day and night and in all weather conditions is a very satisfying skill to develop.
Rescuers carrying a stretcher on moorland
Protracted carry out on one of our stretchers © SRMRT

 

Group or storm shelter

If you get into difficulty in the great outdoors it is likely to take us at least as long to get to you as it took for you to get there in the first place. This could mean someone injured on the hill can spend hours laid on the ground in pain and shock. Even in the height of summer it is not unusual for us to treat patients for hypothermia in addition to the initial injury and while we can reduce the symptoms of cold anyone with a physical injury and suffering the effects of hypothermia is likely to need definitive medical care in hospital. This all too often after a protracted carry out on one of our stretchers. Frequently other party members who stayed with the casualty are also suffering from the effects of the cold. In extreme conditions hypothermia kills.

a group of rescuers erecting a storm shelter in snow covered landscape
Reducing the risk of hypothermia © SRMRT

Each of our hill parties carries a group or storm shelter, (think tent without poles). These are possibly the most underrated piece of kit we carry and are used to protect the patient and casualty carer from the elements. They can be purchased for a few tens of pounds from reputable outdoor stores.

Separately you will find that team members tend to carry individual or ‘two man’ group shelters in addition to the traditional orange bivi bag for their own comfort and protection.

We would strongly recommend that anyone heading in the hills carry a group shelter.

Even in the worst of conditions (and we have used them on the Cairngorm Plateau in winter) a couple of people sitting on their rucksacks under a group shelter are out of the prevailing weather and very quickly warm up the surrounding air inside the shelter reducing the risk of hypothermia. Use of a group shelter could be for simply getting out of the weather for a drink or lunch or protecting the injured patient and other party members until help arrives.

Scarborough and Ryedale MRT is a charity which only exists due to the generosity of our local residents, visitors to area and business along with the dedication of our volunteers be they operation, support or life members and the understanding of our immediate families.

For more information or to donate visit www.srmrt.org.uk or @scarrescue on social media.

(Charitable Incorporated Organisation Registration Number 1174125)

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Posted On: 17/05/2022

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