/ Mountain rescue UK vs alpine countries
Are we hopelessly out of date and wedded to a old fashioned system of well-meaning but mostly amateur volunteers? Should we move to a professional helicopter system? Would having more helicopters available have other benefits outside mountain rescue?
Two immediate thoughts on the differences between the countries
- density of incidents
Try Googling 'Vincendon et Henry'...
A third one:
- height of mountains.
I think our Mountain Rescue service is excellent and would not want it to change, though I equally recognise that other countries do it differently for their own good reasons.
On a day like today with the hills buffeted by wind and obscured by low cloud and rain, how would having more helicopters help you find the casualty and then rescue them?
Do you have evidence to support your implication that helicopters are more likely to be tasked to a rescue in the Alps than they would be in the UK when conditions permit flying?
What proportion of the mountainous areas of the UK have no phone coverage? What proportion of the Alps have no phone coverage?
Are you suggesting that helicopters should be called out when there is no indication of a serious medical problem? For example, someone is lost and tired, or I have a bad blister and it hurts to walk, or my friend is crying and doesn't want to go on - should we send helicopters for such cases?
Of course, any one of these incidents could become serious if the weather is bad and hypothermia sets in, but it then becomes a serious medical emergency...
UK - from tangential involvement in several rescues.
With the exception of the Cuillin, North Face of the Ben, Nothern Corries and other climbing locations, most of our hills are just that. Grassy hills. Are you really suggesting we move to professional system for rescuing Dorothy and her broken Ankle of Ben Lomond or Maisy from The Cobbler?
"well-meaning but mostly amateur volunteers"
My oh my what an offensive statement. I think you will find a vast majority of volunteers although amateur in the employment sense that they do not earn a salary, are not amateur in their skills.
> Are you suggesting that helicopters should be called out when there is no indication of a serious medical problem? For example, someone is lost and tired, or I have a bad blister and it hurts to walk, or my friend is crying and doesn't want to go on - should we send helicopters for such cases?
Well, I was asking if we are happy to have land/foot rescue in those circumstances, or more serious ones, why not helicopters?
Which is better is another discussion all together a company run for profit or an organization making the best with what they have and helping people by happily giving up there time to make a difference.
Are you really suggesting we move to professional system for rescuing Dorothy and her broken Ankle of Ben Lomond or Maisy from The Cobbler?
I was raising the question. The nature of the terrain isn't really the point but the time. I was involved with one rescue when the casualty unfortunately died after about 1.30hr which was also the time for mountain rescue to arrive (commendably quick given the means of transport). The casualty was still concious and talking at 15mins. Who knows if that extra 1hr or so was crucial in this particular case but they must cases when a delay is crucial.
In many parts of the highlands for example the ambulance response is pretty slow too, hence my query about whether there would be wider benefits to more helicopters.
It's not intended to be offensive but an observation.
If you are in Assynt or something you should hopefully already be aware of that. Would be more sense to put the information on maps and guide books. Where would you put this signage? At the bottom of every remote munro? Every remote hill? Every route up every remote hill?
I would say that it was just very unfortunate in that case. From what I can see the vast majority of call outs do not result in life threatening issues, and those that do do not result in death.
I doubt they would make any difference. If someone has travelled to the point where the sign is, I doubt they would turn back upon reading it.
> Try Googling 'Vincendon et Henry'...
That's a seriously harrowing story.
More to the point, if volunteers are happy to do it, which they clearly are, why should we pay people to do it?
Or are you just hopelessly behind the debate ;-) ?
"Acquisition of a helicopter" was one of the recommedations of the Rescue 2000 report (published early 90s), appraising Mountain Rescue in the Lake District. It's been dropped from the just published Rescue 2020 report......
A significant factor in this is increasing involvement of air ambulances in mountain rescue in the Lakes. Whilst they usually need the support of a MR team to get the casualty into the chopper (lack of winching capability), they can often the fastest way to get a paramedic/doctor to a seriously injured casualty.
Do you know why the helicopter suggestion was dropped - cost or was it considered unnecessary for other reasons?
Don't have a full report to hand, but from memory, it was an improved relationship with RAF (and joint training) and the appearance of the air ambulances - both meaning air support is now more readily available than it was 20 years ago.
Actually its entirely voluntary and I wouldn't like to imply that having an intention to do some good is a bad thing or old fashioned. MREW have published a report called Rescue 2020 in the last couple of weeks which is a significant and searching apraisal of current MR provision and targets for improvement. Exactly the time of review you might expect from a professional modern organisation.
>Should we move to a professional helicopter system?
The MOD are due to hand over civilian search and rescue to a private contracter in 2016 when the Sea Kings are retired,I guess they will decide how many to use, I doubt it will be many as it is to be taxpayer funded. I thought the MOD are professional? Do you mean dedicated?
>Would having more helicopters available have other benefits outside mountain rescue?
Doubtful, if there is a dedicated rescue helicopter in every valley, it would need to be ready to go at all times to make the 15-20 minute rescues but there may be some jobs created for firemen, groundcrew and folk to keep the dust off in between rescues when it is to wet, cloudy, windy, foggy etc to fly..................
Just to clarify - the report is published by LDSAMRA (Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association) and only appraised rescue in the Lakes. The picture could potentially be very different in other parts of England and Wales!
See Jim Fraser's many informed posts on this. The Sea King S+R and their replacements are aimed at maritime rescue with mountain rescue being a fortunate sideline. So yes, I suppose I meant dedicated in a way similar to REGA or PGHM.
Even PGHM have to walk sometimes ;-)
MG, of course the nub of your thread is about money but I think that there is also the realisation and acceptance amongst most hill goers that instant rescue is not likley, they are prepared to take the risk and accept the concequences. It would be easy to turn this into a nanny state thread. I think Helicopters are one of several vaulable assets for MR to call upon but will never be a replacement, MR provision is about having a range of resources and skills to call on to solve the problem and a helicopter is a great thing for some incidents, but a gang of determined well trained folk still need to be there when the thing cant fly.
*mostly amateur volunteers*
I for one find that offensive and I'm sure many others who have been in this game far longer than I would be of a much stronger opinion, given the increasing amount of time we give up for training and rescues on our entirely 'amateur voluntary' basis.
Feel free to purchase a new helicopter for every mountain rescue area and pay to train the pilots and the full time staff needed to support and man said rescue missions. Just don't complain when 50% of the time the British weather means they're unable to fly.
presumably you have contacted Jonathon Hart at Lochaber MRT and MRT Scotland. He will give you the real situation.
Of course, it's hard for me to offer a fully informed opinion without first hand experience of primarily helicopter based rescue teams. How about funding a month long secondment for me..... I quite fancy Canada after seeing lots of pretty pics on a recent training course?
Generally the weather in the Alps is better than UK mountains, though when the weather in the Alps is bad, effectively there is no rescue. MR teams in the UK will keep trying, even in very bad weather, when helicopters cannot safely fly, particularly due to visibility or very high, uneven, winds.
Another major difference is the use of much smaller but still powerful commercially manufactured choppers. Almost all helicopters in the UK are large military ones, mainly oriented toward battle loads or submarine attack, diverted to a secondary purpose of MR.
> *mostly amateur volunteers*
> I for one find that offensive and I'm sure many others who have been in this game far longer than I would be of a much stronger opinion, given the increasing amount of time we give up for training and rescues on our entirely 'amateur voluntary' basis.
I really don't think you need find it offensive but it is nonetheless true. I am in no way trying to denigrate MR volunteers. However, there will always be a difference in ability between those who do something at weekends etc and full time. Compare the TA and professional army. The report linked above about the Lakes teams points out skill levels as an area of concern.
I don't think the report was suggesting that overall skill levels were poor - more that there was scope for more training between teams, perhaps an agreed set of core competencies.
Also worth noting that the report made no external assessment of skill level - those concerns would have been raised by team members themselves, who often set themselves pretty high standards!
I also think it's hard to guess if you'd get better mountain skills in a paid helicopter based team than with the existing system. Many teams in the Lakes have a number of outdoor professionals in them (ie MIA, MIC), as well as many people who spend every spare minute (give or take in the hills). Training varies from team to team - but maybe a day or two a month. That doesn't actually compare badly at all to most jobs - sure, the army get to spend a lot of time training, but that's a very expensive model. If you look at paramedics, or doctors, then it's unlikely to be that high. Fire Service is perhaps the most comparable - and in rural areas like Cumbria, many of the staff there are employed on a retained basis rather than full time. And you'd lose the benefits of local knowledge to some extent if it was a Lakes wide service.
Could you provide a faster service for the most seriously injured with a dedicated MR helicopter for the Lakes? Probably, at a huge cost - air ambulance costs around £4 million a year, and for MR, it'd ideally be bigger, more crew and be able to winch and fly at night.
Would you save lives? Less certain, as the situation you describe is very unusual in my experience of MR - and when they do occur, air support is generally requested promptly, and js often available. But quite possibly the odd one.
It might be at the expense of the less seriously injured (if there are simultaneous callouts they'd have to wait til others was dealt with - the current multiple team set up makes this less of an issue). Or you'd need to maintain the current system, too.
Would anyone pay for it? Seems unlikely in the current financial climate, and the push for the Big Society and volunteer run services.......
MR are not amateur volunteers they are all highly skilled professional volunteers. some being doctors and a lot being qualified MIA and MIC and ML. who are willing to go out in any weather and conditions to search for people. you should think about how you phrase your posts.
You might change your tune if a day like that we're ever to come. Because despite the fact you've degraded our skills, our dedication, our time and our volunteer attitude on the internet (none of us ever ask or want money), you can bet we'd still turn out at 2am in the pissing rain or snow and gale force winds to carry you off a mountain when the helicopters can't fly.
Surely all volunteers by definition are amateurs? Even a consultant in pre-hospital care who is volunteering for the MRT is, for that time, an amateur. Even though at another time and place he may get paid very well for carrying out exactly the same role.
> Are we hopelessly out of date and wedded to a old fashioned system of well-meaning but mostly amateur volunteers?
Surely we want people (paid or unpaid) who care for us to mean well...
I'm not really familiar with REGA, but reading this gives some clues:
I assume 40chf is the cost to become a patron, giving you free rescue?
Sounds like they raise income from other sources, too. If you're not a patron, but are insured, they claim from your insurers. If you're not a patron, they assess if you can pay, and may invoice. And a fair chunk of the other work could be paid, but I don't know - hospital transfer, organ/blood deliveries - whilst the secondary repatriation work almost certainly is, possibly subsidising other work?
But certainly an interesting model, not least because it evolved from a volunteer, land based service.
I think the issue is the multiple meanings of "amateur" - see some of the lower ones from the Collins dictionary in here http://www.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?word=amateur
Eg "a person unskilled in or having only a superficial knowledge of a subject" - fairly easy to see why it could cause offence if read with that meaning.
Other countries have volunteer MR Teams - the Bergwacht in germany
I spent sometime doing some avalanche training with one of these teams. They like us British teams are volunteers.
If the government (either UK or Scottish) choose to encourage people and tourists to use the outdoors and businesses and the government profit from it (which they surely do), it is important this is matched with a level of support to mountain rescue teams who have to pick up the pieces...so to speak!
Actually, given Switzerland's compulsory insurance healthcare system, I imagine REGA can claim the costs of inter-hospital transfer, or transport from say road accident to hospital, from a patient's health insurers - whereas UK air ambulances don't get paid by NHS for these. A fair proportion of rescues were also transfers off ski pistes - also often likely to be recoverable from insurers.
From my own experience, when I broke my ankle ice climbing, no attempt was made to reach me on foot even though my injuries weren't life threatening and we had self rescued to safe terrain from which rescue on foot would have been quite possible. They sent out a helicopter straight away and from other incidents I've witnessed or read about that often seems to be the case.
It's a bit variable - but yes, if it's known to be someone injured (rather than lost) in a remote location, and an air ambulance is available, the ambulance service will increasingly send one along.
Equally, they're a fairly limited resource - if one is sent to a straightforward callout, there's a fair chance of it being diverted to a more serious incident. Or that the chopper can land close, but not close enough to get casualty into the aircraft with just the crew. So we'll take the approach of continuing with a mountain rescue response until we know that a helicopter has taken off with the casualty on board, and that the rest of the party need no assistance to get off the hill.
To the op- if there was the market for it then there would be the pro. Teams - but volumes of rescues are low, willingness to pay is low and the volunteer service is of an incredibly high standard. It would be interesting to know how you would disband the voluntary mrt - would you have to legislate against volunteer teams?
Interestingly the UK Government has one paid (Civilian) rescue team on its books in the form of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Perhaps a good model to work from?
On my recent travails around Lochaber, Arnamurchan and Glendessary into Knoydart there were plenty of signs about warning of remote mountainous country be properly preprepared etc. Admittedly some had been pulled over or defaced but there were still many about. Somewhat surprised to find them when I read about 'the ethic' on here.
There is another factor which may be relevant. Alpine helicopter SAR services are specifically concerned with Mountain rescue. In the UK helicopter SAR services also perform a maritime rescue function. I think this is one of the many reasons UK SAR helicopters operate winch rather than static line rescue. Moving boats and static line rescue might be bad for winchmen's health I guess:)
In other words any UK helicopter SAR service must take into account maritime aswell as mountain rescue (more potential patients). There is and should be prioritising of casualties according to need.
A few years ago whilst out on the hill I had to call out rescue services for a guy who fell about 30M on shelterstone. It was about -15 on the Cairngorm Plateau- Fractured Pelvis amongst other injuries. Helicopter lifted him off within 30-40mins. Can't really complain at that. The MRT and military SAR teams had 3 rescues that day on Cairngorm.
I think both are very impressive and have their place in different situations/weather conditions.
Also note that in the UK 'MR' is probably better termed as 'SAR' as they perform a wide variety of roles that have little to do with mountaineering (water rescue, missing person search in remote areas, poor weather ambulance cover etc).
BTW, the well meaning amateurs train hard, train in their own time away from the recorded training sessions and it actually COSTS them to be an MRT team member (at least £1000 per year for me on fuel etc). The term 'professional volunteer', although an oxymoron, is probably the most accurate description for most MRT folk. Quite a few I know only have real jobs to support their volunteer work, i.e. they live, breathe and exist for mountain rescue.
> Also note that in the UK 'MR' is probably better termed as 'SAR' as they perform a wide variety of roles that have little to do with mountaineering (water rescue, missing person search in remote areas, poor weather ambulance cover etc).
Good point there
I think it's obvious from this thread that the UK mountain rescue has evolved as the best approach for our terrain, weather and type of incidents. We don't have the climber numbers, and climber related incident density of the Alps. Our terrain allows MR (or S&R) teams on foot to manage lots of the walker related incidents (which are in the significant majority I understand) with S&R helicopters available for unfortunate climbers, scramblers or the occasional walker who are more seriously injured. The proximity of the coast to all our mountains luckily allows the doubling of the function of Maritime S&R helicopters.
It's difficult to see that there would be a significant benefit to having a team of chiselled professionals in the mould of the PHGM stationed in Ambleside or Llanberis, with their own helicopter(s) when they'd be sitting round drinking tea and reading climbing mags for probably 200 days in a year.
The only time I’ve called MR was a pre mobile phone era when we had to send a passer-by down to the road. The response seemed very fast when some ‘amateur’ mountain rescue racing snakes came up Sour Milk Ghyll at a blistering pace and a helicopter arrived shortly after (I think it’d been scrambled on the basis of the description of the incident over the phone – a 100’ fall).
As an aside the book “Mountain Rescue - Chamonix Mont Blanc: A Season with the World's Busiest Mountain Rescue Service” is a good read”.
No, no, and no.
The simple fact is that you don't have the slightest clue about what you are talking about and have fallen into the trap of making completely flawed generalisations based on one unfortunate incident.
Pretty much everything in your post is utter nonsense. The true situation which numerous posters have alluded to is that helicopters ARE the default means of Search and Rescue within the UK mountains as the latest figures for Scotland for 2011 make abundantly clear. See - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-18800731
- 157 helicopter rescues
- 71 incidents of people walked off by MR
- 65 incidents of casualties stretchered off by MR
I can also attest to this from personal experience. When our party called for mountain rescue in the Cairngorms in Feb 2010 for a casualty with two broken ankles, a helicopter was dispatched immediately with no involvement from the local mountain rescue team. The same occurred in Cadair Idris in May 2009 when a companion party to ours came across a fallen climber.
> Pretty much everything in your post is utter nonsense.
What is nonsense? The situations I describe seem pretty accurate. The rest was some questions.
The true situation which numerous posters have alluded to is that helicopters ARE the default means of Search and Rescue within the UK mountains as the latest figures for Scotland for 2011 make abundantly clear
The figures you give seem to bear out what I was saying. Less then half of rescues involveda helicopter and of those that did there is no information on when it was called.
There have been some interesting comments above and some good rreason for things being the way they are have been given but I do detect in you post a few others kneejerk defensive attitude which doesn't sound very healthy.
I think this is probably because some of your comments have been grossly offensive and misjudged towards us amateurs...
In 71 of the rescues the 'casualty' was in a fit condition to be walked off the hill by MR. These should be disregarded, or are you suggesting that a helicopter should have been called for them anyway?
Of the other incidents 157 used helicopters compared with 65 which did not - more than double. We don't know the reasons why a chopper wasn't used in these circumstances, possibly conditions like this
may have had something to do with it in at least some of the cases.
Both the statistics and evidence from MRT members make it clear that where a helicopter is required it is highly likely to be available.
The situation we have at present is that in the main hill areas we have committed and well-trained rescuers who can turn out in numbers at short notice, backed up by publicly-funded helicopter support which more often than not will be available when needed and when conditions permit. I struggle to see how this could be "professionalised" at a realistic cost.
>Compare the TA and professional army.
You're getting good at rubbing people up the wrong way aren't you? I was in the Regular Army and the TA and I found no difference in the professionalism between either. In fact the TA was more enthusiastic because most of them wanted to do it as against many regulars who had got p***ed off with the whole thing...
Or more bluntly, if you had a choice between using the professional full-time army, or amateur volunteer(ish) TA to fight a war, which would you choose?
> Or more bluntly, if you had a choice between using the professional full-time army, or amateur volunteer(ish) TA to fight a war, which would you choose?
I'd trust the people who know what they're talking about to make a well informed judgement on the training capabilities and suitability of whichever force they deemed neccesary to undertake the task.
Might I suggest you do the same with Mountain Rescue, and leave it to the amatuer experts who know what they're talking about, have all the facts to make the required judgements, and have countless years of collective experience offering a highly (and statistically) successful, proportionate and appropriate rescue service entirely free of charge and devoid of funding throughout the UK in both mountainous and urban areas.
Think that about sums it up.
> I'd trust the people who know what they're talking about to make a well informed judgement on the training capabilities and suitability of whichever force they deemed neccesary to undertake the task.
And you know full well which would be chosen.
This thread was in fact sparked by involvement I had recently in a rescue in the alps where the response was quite breathtakingly efficient and quick. This contrasted markedly with my experience of two rescues in the UK where the response has been a lot slower. There have a number of good reasons raised for this and from what has been said any benefits of a more rapid service in the UK would be outweighed by the extra cost, or least a reluctance by people to pay for it. However, it also seems pretty clear to me that we (society/climbers) are making a choice to accept a cheaper but slower service. This isn't really noted normally.
It also seems from posts here that some MR members are hyper-sensitive about their role (note by contrast helpful comments from Carolyn and others). If merely questioning whether the current setup is optimal sparks the sort of responses you gave above, I wonder how open you would ever be to new ideas or improvements ?
You might also notice the number of comments from various people involved with MR that state you should consider more carefully how you phrase your remarks regarding the UK LANDSAR capability so as not to cause offence.
Questioning the current set up did not spark negative responses. Implying the current setup is staffed by poorly skilled, slow and inadequately qualified individuals is what caused the negative responses.
Then, when it's been pointed out that your comments have cause offence to a group of highly motivated, dedicated and professional (of attitude) volunteers - rather than apologise which most people would do, you've done the standard - explain why you think what you said may have been misinterpreted and taken as an undue negative followed by pointing out the lack of skill and amatuer approach in the following sentence.... numerous times. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
You also seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that the UK mountains are an entirely different ball game to the alpine mountains of europe and as such require an entirely different SAR capability. Not least because of our unpredictable and more often than not unflyably weather. You appear to have completely brushed past the points that when the weather is flyable, the vast majority of rescues are carried out by helicopter teams with a land response also being mobilised as a back up. Perhaps the reality doesn't suit your argument and as such, must be discounted.
Would you like to hire a JCB to help dig your hole?
We've already had statistics quoted which show that (disregarding incidents where the casualty is able to get themselves down with assistance) helicopters are used in more than 2/3rds of those rescues. The question should be, in how many life-threatening situations, and when conditions would permit flying, was a helicopter not available?
You appear to have had a bad experience, but without further information we can't judge why a helicopter was not used in that case. Was the severity of the casualty's condition not properly communicated? Did his condition deteriorate suddenly and without warning? Did conditions prevent flying? Or was it simply that all the helicopters were tied up on other duties? Any of these factors could apply to any situation, and there will always be the possibility that a helicopter is unavailable because it is already involved in another rescue.
You also haven't made a case for professional (in the sense of paid) rescue teams. There might be an argument for having something like the retained firefighter system, but there is a strong ethos of voluntary service in the MRTs and I can see no reason to believe that paying them would improve levels or quality of service, or of recruitment.
Finally, how would this be paid for? I can't see the general public agreeing to fund a rescue service for people they regard as suicidal nutters. There is strong resistance to an insurance-based system in the UK, for good practical reasons - a great many of those helped by MRTs would not regard themselves as mountaineers and would not think of carrying rescue insurance.
You seem to be proposing replacing something which is very low cost (even the costs of the helicopters comes out of the normal military flying budget, as they would be flying training exercises if not on rescues) with something which will cost a substantial sum, without demonstrating either a need or a real benefit. I'm not suggesting there shouldn't be a debate, but you need to put forward a proper case for it.
> This thread was in fact sparked by involvement I had recently in a rescue in the alps where the response was quite breathtakingly efficient and quick. This contrasted markedly with my experience of two rescues in the UK where the response has been a lot slower.
By involvement do you mean to say you gave up an evening every week and usually a weekend every month, followed by additional duties, requirements, conferences, training weekends and fundraising, along with much of your own money to cover personal insurance, kit, fuel etc, to be part of a team of highly trained and dedicated individuals working in horrific weather conditions in the middle of night in conjunction with many of the UKS other emergency response services (some helpful, others not) to rescue those in need.
Or do you mean you saw it happen/got rescued/a friend of yours got rescues/raised the response/gave a hand to an MRT who turned up to help?
If you choose option number 1, I'm sure MRT would welcome debate.
If you choose option number 2, I'm sure MRT would welcome constructive criticism and feedback (noted). You've had your question answered. Now please stop insulting the work of MREW and MRCofS.
That said, in both the UK incidents the response was on foot after a call-out indicating serious injuries. In one case as I noted there was a fatality, *possibly* due to the delay. In the second it was only after the foot MR arrived that a helicopter was called. This then arrived rapidly but it was one without a winch so the casualty had to be carried to a flat spot where it was possible to land. Reading reports of other rescues these seem fairly typical scenarios. It seems to me we are choosing to have a slower system than the best possible on grounds of cost.
In one case as I noted there was a fatality, *possibly* due to the delay...
That's a big accusation to make...
Much of this debate has typically overlooked the whole picture and is an unnecessary knee-jerk to recent news. However, I'll put my tuppence into the bag in the hope that what I contribute puts a more informed slant on matters.
The UK's geography is wholly different from many of the countries with dedicated Mountain and Wild Land Rescue Services: we are a collection of islands with compact mountainous areas, vast moorlands and stretches of large sea-cliffs.
In the UK, Military & Civilian Mountain Rescue and the deployment of helicopter resources is only one small part of a bigger picture covering search, rescue and evacuation in many guises: from downed aircraft to any number of civilian incidents on coastal cliffs and beaches, in-shore waters, lakes, lochs, rivers, gorges, gylls, burns, quarries, caves and, of course, crag, hill & moorland incidents. The Ambulance Service also has helicopter resources which are being increasingly deployed for easily accessible incidents and our Fire Services now have an expanding role in delivering 'rescue' services.
Our Naval, RAF & Coastguard Services each have helicopter resources for specific roles in their organisations which are often diverted to assist our sportsmen and women. Also, in MRT, we have the occasional opportunity to benefit from uplift to get us to the casualty: but whatever the purpose of deploying a helicopter, involvement in our sport adds to their flying training!
The voluntary services (RLNI, MRT, SARDA & CRT) cover incidents on in-shore waters, on crags, mountains, caves & quarries and cover so much more than just plucking folk off a hillside. That's just the end result 'cause in our (MRT) environment there is often the need for extremely tedious search work in conditions that most sensible people wouldn't venture into let alone deploy a helicopter!
Nor is MRT just used for hill incidents. Amongst many tasks, you may well find us deployed to support the search for missing persons in lowland and semi-rural areas where Police resources would be stretched to their max and taken away from other frontline duties, we support in flood & snow situations, we support other services in remote transport incidents, we cover first aid at local events, give talks to local groups and help deliver on DofE and uniformed youth organisations training events: none of which would be done for 'free' by a paid rescue service!
We also have a highly trained voluntary 'Search & Rescue Dog Association' which is widely called on for missing persons away from the mountains.
The combined picture can be grossly confusing and does lead to occasional operational stresses with an increasing burden of paperwork, protocols and local agreements but for the guys and gals 'doing the job', voluntary MRT works and most people in distress are found, stabilised, evacuated and returned to medical care or their families and friends.
A dedicated, professional mountain rescue service would do only a fraction of these roles; it would likely be an unnecessary and probably underused service which would be extremely costly.
However, look at the professionalism of our voluntary MRTs and you will recognise their intrinsic value and core role in our sport where there is always a place for any worthwhile resource be it an Argocat or a two person helicopter.
Enjoy your safe climbing, Andy
> Much of this debate has typically overlooked the whole picture and is an unnecessary knee-jerk to recent news.
Thanks for the detailed post. Note the OP and much of thread was in fact prior to yesterday's events so unfortunate timing rather than a reaction.
> It seems to me we are choosing to have a slower system than the best possible on grounds of cost.
Welcome to reality land.
One thing that would hugely improve response times is to have good mobile phone coverage throughout all mountain areas of the UK. This way, nobody would need to walk for an hour or four in order to make the call in the first place.
Who would pay for this? Would we want the extra phone masts and access roads that would make this possible?
Another obvious thing to improve response times would be having at least one rescue/paramedic team always on station in the hills in areas of high demand, for example a tented clinic at the halfway lochan on Ben Nevis and another on the summit. You could have regular patrols on busy paths. Permanently staffed rescue centres complete with all terrain vehicles (Hagglunds or Argo) at various points so that nowhere in the hills is further than one hour from such a rescue centre. And of course make more heli bases so that nowhere is more than ten minutes flying time from a base.
The same is true of every service you can think of. There is strong evidence to suggest that crime would reduce if we quadrupled the number of police officers - with enough officers EVERY crime would be investigated, and police would respond rapidly to every call.
Survival rates from heart attacks would be increased if every house, car, shop and workplace had a defibrilator, and everybody was trained in their use. Roads would have fewer potholes if we spent more on road repairs. And so on. And so on.
You are one touchy individual Tipsy.
He says *possibly*. It's hardly an accusation.
Amateur is the opposite to professional. The difference between paid and unpaid. You are surely confusing amateur with amateurish.
Helicopter rescue is only the norm in high density regions. There are plenty of mountains in France and Italy which are substantially bigger than most of our hills but away from the Alps where helicopter cover is not the norm.
It's a fair point that some of my responses are a bit touchy. It's just a pet hate of mine when someone criticises something perfectly good provided to them free of charge, this is pointed out, they try to explain and then repeat again and again.
If he'd left it at explaining his use of the word amateur without tagging on repeated comments about lack of skills, training and professionalism, all would have been fine.
I was told by a collegue of one professional who attended a scene that 'in an accident, he was (my) man'- the only problem being it was his errors of judgement which had got us there in the first place!
> That said, in both the UK incidents the response was on foot after a call-out indicating serious injuries. In one case as I noted there was a fatality, *possibly* due to the delay. In the second it was only after the foot MR arrived that a helicopter was called. This then arrived rapidly but it was one without a winch so the casualty had to be carried to a flat spot where it was possible to land.
It's difficult to comment without knowing the full facts, and I'm not pointing a finger at anyone, but what you say suggests perhaps either a failure of communication or an error of judgement in not requesting a chopper sooner, rather than a lack of resources.
Any system has the capacity for human error, and whilst this can be reduced by systems and training it can never be eradicated. The alternative would be to scramble a helicopter to every call-out, whether this is for life-threatening injuries in a remote location or a walker lost a mile from the road. That doesn't seem to me to be either a realistic or even desirable scenario, and certainly not an affordable one.
On the other hand, you could do a lot more to encourage people to be open to your thoughts - some of your comments certainly seem to have little thought put in to them before being posted. I've had to take a deep breath, work out what what you were actually trying to say rather than how it first came across, and then try and make a measured response to that. I think "hypersensitive" is a little unreasonable given some of your posts!
How do you know that the helicopter hadn't already been called? The fact that a air ambulance came shows that the MR team had already attempted to get air support however it is possible that both RAF and Coastguard heli's were busy elsewhere therefore meaning that they had to call in the air ambulance.
It may have been called and waiting in the area for the ground team to find a Suitable landing site.
These are all presumptions on the facts you give much like your presumption that it wasn't called earlier however it also brings up another topic of air ambulances....another charity funded services which are utilised by the NHS and ambulance services to save many lives each day which are called upon more regularly than MR teams, thus they are at the service of a higher percentage of the population.
However even though they are more needed per person than MR the government will not fully fund them like MR and if privatised like MR would require people to hold insurance for daily
Anyway, let's take your full time professional MR teams and helicopter support which you want. Yes you would be covered when your in the mountains but what about the other services that MR teams cover now.
For example if your brother, mother, close friend with dementia went missing from their home and they were searched for by the new full time MR team and helicopters would they need insurance to cover the cost of their search and rescue?
How about the people who live in rural villages who need an ambulance however due to snow or other weather conditions the normal ambulances cannot reach them therefore MR teams go out in their land rovers and transport them to hospital?
Who would cover the cost of all this in the system you propose?
Would the whole country need insurance as currently the whole country is currently able to recieve assistance of MR teams in the UK currently.
> A third one:
> - height of mountains.
> I think our Mountain Rescue service is excellent and would not want it to change,
I agree its excellent, but seeking to improve is normal.
I actually think MRT's should use runners more, some do, but if you have fell runners in an area use them as an initial team, a runner can get to the site in half the time of a walking team, assess and radio in the situation. I think this is happening with some teams.
Not picking holes. Just like to point out in Scotland the air ambulance service is not charity funded. It's funded through the Scottish ambulance service under a ringfenced budget. Lots of political reasons for this but mainly the unique geography of Scotland. Although I'm sure this could be argued in other areas. All to do with cash!
Under current flight regulations air ambulances can only fly HEMS missions during daylight hours I.e. takeoff and landing from undesignated sites is not allowed (emergencys). They fly mainly interhospital transfers at night as takeoff and landing is allowed at these sites. This may change in the future apparently.
Plenty of runners around these parts.... rucsac full of a 200m rope usually slows them down to a more reasonable pace ;-)
More seriously, I'd say that's fairly standard practice for us. Not necessarily to send in a runner with no kit to assess (because we often have phone comms with the incident site, and so a good idea of what's going on - although actually pinning down the incident site is sometimes needed), but a fast person or two with light kit suited to the incident heading up first.
Because of the distribution of helicopter bases, it is quite common for team members to get to the casualty well before the helicopter, even though the helicopter has been called at the same time as the team.
It would be great to have an MR helicopter in every mountain area, but the cost would be prohibitive.
Anyway I'm sure there was a grough report on a team doing that..
I don't disagree that a decent fell runner can get up the hill faster than the average walker, big pack or no big pack. And certainly the good fell runners in the team are considerably faster up the hill than those of us (em, me) who'd be somewhere near the back of the field in a race! But for us, that's about the spread of fitness - on a callout to an injured person (rather than a potentially protracted search), virtually all the team will be in fell/trail shoes and carrying little personal kit.
But, logistically, speed up the hill is not always the major factor in who gets to the incident site first. It's not as though we're all starting from the same place, apart from those callouts that happen during a team meeting or practice. So the time it takes people to get from home/work to base or the bottom of the fell can have more impact than speed up the hill - particularly callouts during the working day.
We're maybe unusual with the number of fell runners in the team, though.
I'm sure one of the peak teams (glossop springs to mind) had something like this...
The fire service (Professionals who are trained in rope access) ask MRT Team to assist for their rope access capabilities in a rescue.....Not a standard rescue @ 5am on a sunday morning!
So this is a government funded service like what you propose, however they realise that these 'volunteers' are actually unpaid professionals and have skills that are adaptable to many scenarios not just the mountain environment.
It would be an interesting situation if MRT were professionals and private (therefore charging for their services)
Who would pay for this rescue in your proposal?
One of the most impressive people I've ever met in the hills was a member of the Dartmoor SAR, who bounced into the checkpoint where I was marshalling in a mountain event in the Brecon Beacons. He was third in a field of several hundred, and after running eighteen miles over Pen y Fan etc, carrying a reasonable load on a baking hot day, he was still just warming up and raring to go. He must be a godsend to the team as a first responder, but you still need a back-up behind carrying the heavy gear.
If you're a wet, cold walker/scrambler/climber/MOUNTAIN biker/DofE with a broken leg on a wet, windy, foggy moor you wouldn't mind DSRT arriving, 999 to the police and then MR.
Not mountainous, agreed, but certainly not lowland either. That's why the Army, Royal Marines etc use it all the time.
Around here of know of 1 or 2 very fit people in the teams but apart from that I wouldn't say the level of fitness was especially high..
If a casualty can be found quickly, reassured, stabilised and an accurate report be sent to base it will help for a faster overall recovery of the casualty. Got to be good.
Especially when it is too foggy for a helicopter to fly.
Dartmoor's 'Hasty Team' has one A&E nurse and one paramedic as members. The other two are MLs.
It's basically an assessment of if it would be beneficial to casualties for Air Ambulances to have winching/long line capability, based on a analysis of incidents in the Patterdale area.
I'll be back with the rescuer fitness paper when I've tracked it down.....
I think there are probably two issues causing confusion here, Iain - perceptions of what constitutes "very fit", and variation between teams.
Compared to the general public, or even the hillwalking public, I'd be considered fit - it's certainly rare anyone overtakes me on a normal trip up the fell. But by fellrunning or our team standards, I'm near the back of the field - meaning the really fit guys are probably going at close to twice my speed. So, if the casualty is near the summits, equates to getting to the casualty in 30-40 minutes, rather than more like an hour. Definitely a difference that warrants thought on how we deploy people, which I think is what you're suggesting? And that difference may well be wider in other places.
What proportion of a fell race field would you consider "very fit"? I imagine you're thinking of the leaders, whereas others probably consider anyone who can complete to be very fit.
Do you need to be very fit to complete a BGR, or is that just a long walk? What about a midwinter round with snow on the ground and blowing a hoolie?
I think the general level of fitness for us is about "nip out and pace a BG leg before breakfast, and not complain when you're expected to run to a callout on the top of Red Pike in the afternoon".
(I'm not trying to argue with you, btw, just tease out why others might not see the value of runners)
Anyway, I can only find the abstract of the study on mountain rescuer fitness, which is unfortunately not that informative. It basically suggested the physiological demands of MR were very high, and showed a high level of fitness - although I suspect the 8 "volunteers" were at the fitter end of the team, and it was looking at the demands of carrying a hefty load up the hill at speed, which you wouldn't necessarily put on a hasty team.
Its all time and a place though isn't it. I'd hazard a guess that in the Lakes and Snowdonia there is more use than in alpine countries, or even Scotland (well apart from the Ben). A good % of Ogwen call outs (looking at the incident list) seem to be locate and walk down.. It seems in the more touristy areas there would be more use as a higher component of the work will be simple getting lost/benighted issues and lack of confidence to carry on.
For the pace of runners to be useful they'd need to be relatively lightly weighed down, but enough they'd be useful.
> Fell-runners tend to be at the flimsier end of things in terms of upper body strength in my experience.
In the lakes and Snowdonia? peak as well.. most, or at least a lot, are current or ex climbers..
OK I'm the fastest fatty, rarely anyone as heavy/tall as me, but in fell running it is no where near as much of a contrast than in road running..
Most of those with BG fitness, which is more than you'd think, will be bigger builds, not fat at all, but I wouldn't class them as flimsy.
Well, a few years back, one of our team doctors was in the pub after a midweek climbing session. He was talked into tagging onto the team leader's BGR attempt that weekend. And completed in under 24 hours, although not by all that much..... and he did suffer a bit for a few days.
That's a bit exceptional, I'll give you that - but a few hours at BGR pace is pretty equivalent to rescue fitness IME - I imagine half the team (if not more) could nip out and pace a leg of a 23 hour schedule without a second thought.
Improve. Only politicians seek to change things for the sake of it ;-)
Sure, but that is a bit different to the whole thing!
Agreed, but which was Iain suggesting as a fitness standard?
Do all the official MRT vehicles run on Red Diesel? If not then they should be allowed to. Nasty tax man.
What is the difference in set up between the way the RNLI is funded and the MRT? The RNLI has a longer professional history then the MRT for obvious reasons, but how does their set up alter from the MRT and can that system be used for MRT.
Is there a set Nationwide training scheme for MRT or is it all team lead?
Does all the money collected go into one central pot and then distributed or is it every team for itself?
Just thinking of how to reduce costs and overheads. Simple thinks like bulk buying and nationwide training courses etc.
Sorry again for my ignorance.
The Auxillary Coastguard are an interesting comparison. Effectively do same job as Mr but on the coast/cliffs. However fully funded by HM Govt.
Mr is certainly moving towards some more of a central funding source - 'Basecamp' but teams also raise funds themselves.
There are some common training expectations but each team also has different demands depending where they are. Dartmoor teams won't need much avalanche training but nav is probably very important.
Uk Govt doesn't donate/help English Welsh MR but Scottish Parliament gives Scottish MR 6 figure handouts each year. You figure that one out.
Hope that helps
No Red diesel is for use not on the public highway eg farm & construction vehicles.
MR pays tax just like charities for children's cancer and fluffy pet rescue.
RNLI is one organisation. MR is a loose coalition of independent teams with their own status, history, skill mix and funding needs.
Mr training and standards are currently up to individual teams. Moves are afoot to specify a "standard" of "what a rescue team member should be able to do". Some standards such as medical training and missing person behaviour and search techniques also exist.
Most training is done in house so it does not cost more for teams to train themselves. Bulk buying to some extent does already happen, though individual teams also support their local climbing shops if they "need a couple of pulleys" or some string.
Any money you put in to a pot in most shops will go to the local teams.
The main difference will be the national deal with Go Outdoors! which I think gets distributed.
As another poster said, the question you pose really is 'do we want to switch to having compulsory insurance' to go for a hillwalk? I would say no.
Well links to academics studies asking the same question, previous proposals for the Lakes suggesting dedicated helicopters, and much greater use of existing helicopters for MR in the UK over the last 15 years suggest it is not an absurd question.
Try getting a Land Rover up to Mt. Maudit last week.
Try getting one up Buchaille Etive Mor.
Pissed off being the correct term!
As a foundation member of Central Beacons MRT, I have spent every Thursday evening since January, training towards assessments to allow me to become a 'probationary' team membe for the following year to show after assessment I have the necessary capabilities to do the 'amateur' job, for free, in m free time, willingly, without complaint (well we all have a moan about the weather now and then!)
Yes people joined the team with little experience or tonnes of it, but all achieve the same high standard of ability in areas like rope work, first aid (which you are required to have a minimum formal training, not so amateur)
Every team member, those who are foundation with me this year, to full members for 20 years, have to be able to do the job, it is a job, and are constantly training to ensure they are.
The queen rewarded MR team members with 5 years of voluntary service with jubilee medals a few weeks ago, doesn't seem that amateur to me!
In conclusion, you may have started a discussion about the gains of helicopters MG but you have created a monster...
Also and as I've said in this post, Visit Scotland actively promotes Scotland as an outdoors destination to tourists. There are plenty of outdoor companies operating, lots of mountain biking and many outdoor adventure events.
Many profit so when you look at all of this, it's absolutely right the Government contribute something to the rescue teams.
Your original observation could be reversed. If rescuers in the Alps could be on the scene on footor in vehicles in around 1hr+ would they bother with as many costly helicopters?
Of course they have lots of heli's in the Alps, they need them to conduct the rescues in a timely fashion. If they didn't have them lots more folk would possibly die etc.
I'm no expert in the numbers, but despite the fact the we don't have lots of helicopters, our mountain rescue performance seems pretty good to me?
> Mr training and standards are currently up to individual teams. Moves are afoot to specify a "standard" of "what a rescue team member should be able to do". Some standards such as medical training and missing person behaviour and search techniques also exist.
For a number of years now there have existed a set of guidelines stating what a hill party member and a hill party leader should be able to perform in all weathers, day or night.
> If you're a wet, cold walker/scrambler/climber/MOUNTAIN biker/DofE with a broken leg on a wet, windy, foggy moor you wouldn't mind DSRT arriving, 999 to the police and then MR.
> Not mountainous, agreed, but certainly not lowland either. That's why the Army, Royal Marines etc use it all the time.
I don't think I disputed this, did I?
I think we're on the same side, unfortunately I may have replied to some other person's pontification but it is recorded as reply to you. Sorry about that.
The point I think I'm trying to make is that plenty of 'MR' teams work in difficult and challenging environments closer to mountain environments than the local park. They may not be steep and 'mountainous' but the teams still work within the remit of MR.
When I worked as a walking guide many Europeans looked down their noses at the Scottish Highlands as 'mountains' - 'Pah, our villages are higher than the summit of Ben Nevis' was somethig I was often told. 'These are hills, mountains have glaciers' was another I used to get.
Often by the end of a stroll up our higher 'little hill' of the Ben they changed their view!
> Your original observation could be reversed. If rescuers in the Alps could be on the scene on footor in vehicles in around 1hr+ would they bother with as many costly helicopters?
Yes, they would. Availability of helicopter rescue has enormously increased the possibility to save lives and avoid worse trouble (mainly because of the “golden hour” rule, but not just because of that).
And this definitely is not limited to mountain rescue: in Italy, the regular use of helicopters with ad hoc rescue teams to move heart attack or car crash victim to medical facilities has changed dramatically the victims hope to survive or limit the damages. As a citizen and as a tax payer it’s one of the thing I’m VERY glad to pay (like almost everything of our health care system)
The “why bother using helicopters to move people to hospitals if they don’t really need it” it’s misleading for two reasons:
1) If someone calls rescue even if they’re not in real dangers, they should be made pay the bill – period. I’m all for enforcement of this rule, and I’m really happy that Piemonte, after VdA and Trentino has now switched away from a “no question asked” policy to some kind of responsibility for the person rescued . Assuming that “it’s better” if someone with a twisted ankle is taken away by a car or foot bound rescue team rather than being helicoptered away, it’s wrong.
2) Paying three people to walk two or three hours, assess the situation, prepare for the rescue operation, and maybe giving first aid, is still a significant cost, still, if you’re calling this kind of rescue you should be made pay (you or your insurance).
3) And despite what some people think, rescue by foot is not any easier or safer than rescue by helicopter (just somehow cheaper). And its unreliability and unpredictability make for increased chances of problems during the walk-out, litigations etc.
BTW there are rescue volunteers here, but they work together with the professionals (not in alternative). I think it's a good arrangement that works well in most rescue scenarios.
> The “why bother using helicopters to move people to hospitals if they don’t really need it” it’s misleading for two reasons:
(followed by three reasons)
Bit of a Monty Python moment here... :)
Well, nobody really does! ;)
Fitness and speed are irrelevant if, once you arrive at the casualty you then have to spend considerable time looking after yourself or because of your level of experience you are not up to handling the situation.
In my Team, I spend a fair amount of training time during set-piece exercises getting Base controllers and group leaders on the hill to work out ahead of finding & managing a casualty, who on the hill is best for the current needs of the situation and what resources they are carrying. Having a fast, lightly kitted-out team member is virtually useless if casualty care is then compromised by lack of resources; even if it is just a bottle of O2.
So many other considerations have to be worked out depending on the terrain the casualty is on. Say, on steep, broken, exposed ground, the incident site may need the casualty handler to be secured etc. etc.
the point being speed is not necessarily the priority if it is compromised by other factors.
.....and, to get into the bio-chemistry / psychology bit: once a conscious casualty is aware that help has arrived there can be a tendency for the release of the 'self-help' chemical (Adrenalin) to be turned down as the casualty starts to rely on the helper. If simple items like O2, Entonox, warm & protective gear (to reduce heat loss) are not then available you can have a casualty who is less able to maintain their own 'survival' as they are expecting that bit to be done for them.
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