Comments made by Sir Chris Bonington pertaining to mountain rescue services recently made their way into articles in both The Times and The Telegraph, which he later wrote were taken out of context. Editor of Mountain Rescue magazine, Judy Whiteside, penned a personal blog post in which she addressed Chris' comments, misrepresentation in the media and the reality of life in a mountain rescue team. Judy has kindly allowed us to reproduce an updated version of her post.
Really silly question, but why is the UK the only European country without a professional rescue body? Why is it don't these amazing people don't get paid? Third world countries like Spain can afford it, it seems they should be recognised as a professionals here in UK.
Odonogc19 Oct 2017
In reply to Ramon Marin: Ireland has a similar set-up, all teams are voluntary.
By the way I don't; think Spain is a third-world country!
I raised this same question with a member of a Peak District rescue team recently, and it seems that many in mountain rescue worry that if it was to be funded by central or local government, operations may become subject to political influence, or the vagaries of economic policy. If Mountain Rescue were presently state funded, we may well be looking at a seriously underfunded organisation if the cut backs made to police forces are anything to go by. By being funded by charitable donations and similar, mountain rescue teams are able to oversee their own funding streams, and more importantly, free to determine how those funds are used without political or commercial influence. I imagine that the same goes for corporate sponsorship. And Mountain Rescue teams are not alone in adopting this view — the RNLI is also funded through donations and grants and manned by volunteers, and has successfully been saving lives at sea for decades. Yes, these organisations do essential work that is often under-appreciated, and they can sometimes struggle to secure sufficient funding, but perhaps it's a case of "if it ain't broke. why fix it"?
If multiple teams are being deployed to the same incident, isn't there a problem with allocation of resources? In other emergency control rooms they have decent visibility of who's deployed where - I wonder if the same level of tech is available to mountain rescue, or if when the call is passed on from 999 they just pass it to any and all available teams in the area. Sounds like there's room for improvement in this area.
In reply to UKC Articles: 1. Europe is a whole different ball game to walking in the British hills as say opposed to the Alps where a lot of walkers/climbers belong to one of the very large (by British standards) national clubs, think SAC, and all the sub-divisions within each club. In the UK the vast majority of walkers in need of rescue services are not members of any affiliated club and certainly very unlikely to have any insurance, automatic if you are in SAC or similar.
2.The rescue themselves do not want a Govt. backed rescue service with all the hoops etc that this would entail. They are all volunteers and proud to be so.
3. As usual the press never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and refer to C.B. because he is known to just about every man/woman in the street, not the unknown head of some rescue team, that won't arouse the same interest, and we all know what appears in the press is true!
4. When I lived in Nant Peris, the base for the Llanberis team, I was frequently asked why I was not in the team. My reply, mostly unprintable, is that why should I spend my evenings and nights, out in foul weather looking for some fool that can't be bothered to even carry a map and compass, but has a mobile handy to help someone else get them out of the pickle they have bought on themselves. Many of my friends were in that team and some of the stories were truly unbelievable.
5. The rescue service was originally set up by climbers and hill walkers to rescue their own but now Joe Bloggs thinks it is almost a Govt. dept that is there to call out on a whim.
So the next time you are passing an M.R. collecting tin, stop and add a few pennies. It all helps. I fortunately have never had to call upon their services in nearly 60 years in the hills, but you never know!
> If multiple teams are being deployed to the same incident, isn't there a problem with allocation of resources? In other emergency control rooms they have decent visibility of who's deployed where - I wonder if the same level of tech is available to mountain rescue, or if when the call is passed on from 999 they just pass it to any and all available teams in the area. Sounds like there's room for improvement in this area.
I think you would be surprised at the sophistication of command and control nowadays. Much as it pains me to praise other teams rather than fight them Lochaber probably have sufficient technology to run a small war.
I once saw a "heated discussion" between the ambulance service (who had walked up to the base of the crag) mountain rescue team and air ambulance personnel about who should take responsibility for a casualty at the base of a climb at Stanage. All three were very quick in getting there, and had arrived at about the same time.
How it was resolved I dont know, we cleared off and left them too it.
We had seen the fall and suspected a possible spinal injury and so had stopped the casualties mates from helping him down to the road and insisted that they call for the appropriate help, and the cavalry turned up in droves.
In reply to Sean Kelly:
Leaving it to charitable donation will probably mean that political interference should be diminished. Let’s not forget that public responses to mountain tragedies usually contain a proportion of those who talk about ‘fining’ those unfortunate enough to need rescuing: easy to see where such thinking could end up if MR teams were centrally funded.
There is a generally benign view taken of organisations such as MRTs and RNLI - resulting in a willingness to donate. Political alignments would reduce that I think
Something about this reminds me of some of the 'Doctor' stories by Geoff Dutton, first published in the SMC journal but later in a book - was it the Pityoulish MRT ? (rumoured to be based on a well known team from NE Scotland)
> So the next time you are passing an M.R. collecting tin, stop and add a few pennies. It all helps. I fortunately have never had to call upon their services in nearly 60 years in the hills, but you never know!
With all due respect, I know many a mickle makes a muckle, but a few pennies in a collecting tin isn't going to do much. My local team, Kendal, is currently appealing for £50,000 to acquire a new vehicle. Send 'em a cheque. Or why not, if you can afford it, set up a direct debit every quarter. It's charitable donation, so that nice Mr Hammond will refund the tax you've paid on your donation.
A government run organisation would be a disaster, they can't run a bath. Some of the RNLI crews are already raising concerns about delays in being called out to incidents, because of the reduction in Coastguard resources.
> Really silly question, but why is the UK the only European country without a professional rescue body? Why is it don't these amazing people don't get paid?
German, Austrian and Swiss mountain rescue is volounteer based. In Germany it´ s part of the Red Cross and in Austria it is a independent organisation. In Switzerland it is run by a charity set up by the Swiss Alpine Club.
> A government run organisation would be a disaster, they can't run a bath.
I'd be more concerned about those making a career out of it in a government organisation. Do they have a job until 67? What if they are injured and have to stay on the books? Is there annual fitness tests they have to pass? What if they don't? How much time would be spent staying current and competent at different skills?
At least with a volunteer organisation you can bow out without it affecting you children and families futures.