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Fancy joining Mountain Rescue??

The second article in our Mountain Rescue Series.  Previously Emily explained what a Mountain Rescue Team does and here she goes on to discuss what it takes to be a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) member – the training, the considerations you should make before committing and a personal perspective of life as an active MRT member.

Becoming a Mountain Rescue Member

Whilst Mountain Rescue teams are generally made up of people with a passion for the outdoors, they bring with them a wide variety of skills – so being a fantastic climber or first aider isn’t essential.

Llanberis Mountain Rescue strecher carry in winter
Llanberis Mountain Rescue stretcher carry in winter

Training for Mountain Rescue

When you first join you will undertake a comprehensive training programme, which includes rope work focusing on rescue at heights, stretcher handling, first aid focusing on management of trauma and medical conditions, communications and radio use, navigation at night and poor visibility, search techniques, water safety and bank side rescue and working with other emergency services.You do need to be capable of looking after yourself in the outdoors, including have your own personal kit, able to navigate and be physically fit. Being in a team it is also important to be resilient and able to deal with difficult situations, willingness to learn and willingness to get out in the worst weather and have stamina to endure long days on the hill.

Things to consider before you join an MRT:

  • How much time can you commit?

Being a team member is a fairly demanding role, even in a less busy team like mine in the South Pennines. You need to be able to commit to approximately two years of training before you get on the call out list, both evenings and weekends – eventually meeting a strict criteria on a range of subjects. Once on the call out team you need to be able to commit to continuing your training and assisting in providing rescue cover at events in your area and be available for call outs. Within each team there are also dedicated party leaders to coordinate activities on the hill, specialists in rope rescue, casualty carers amongst other roles.

  • How interested in first aid are you?

    Holme Valley MRT dealing with a casualty at a cragside

Mountain rescue might be a lot about searching for the lost or injured but it’s not a glamorous job. primarily it is about providing first aid treatment – can you deal with seeing injuries? Are you happy to be a comfort to a casualty for a long period of time while additional help can come to get them to safety.

  • Can you cope with being out and active for a long time? 

Call outs are often long, involving a lot of standing around waiting to be deployed, and then often working well into the night. Teams are often called out to jobs to help with police searches and by the time we get the call it is when the police have done the easier searches and are after assistance on open moorland or dense woodland and require our specialist skills and it is often already starting to get dark. You need to be able to cope working late into the night, even if you’ve just had a long day at work and need to be up again in the morning.

  • Can you fit it around your work commitments and family life? 

Will your employer give you the flexibility to drop everything if you get a call? This isn’t always needed as teams are often made up of people who have a 9-5 job, like me, and people who are self employed and can be more flexible, but I still have to know that if I get a call I could if needed leave work. Is your partner happy with coming second if you get a call and you had plans for the evening?

  • Are you fit enough? 

Can you help carry a stretcher across rough moorland and rocky terrain (it’s a myth that everyone who is rescued has the fortune to be taken away in a helicopter)? Are you capable of being out on the hill for hours searching for a casualty?

  • Are you willing to help with other activities the team does? 

This includes fundraising, managing equipment and vehicles and helping with fetes and galas to promote the team.

Holme Valley MRT at Warlow Quarry in Marsden

Given the commitment it’s not surprising that on average only about 20% of people who sign up as trainees progress through the training to be on the call out list. Many people realise it’s not for them, they can’t commit the time or didn’t realise how involved being a team member is.

A Personal Perspective of being an MR Team member

I joined my local mountain rescue team in 2009 whilst I was training to be an mountain leader and quickly learnt a lot of new skills and confidence. In that time I’ve also gained lifelong friends who I’ve been on amazing trips with.  In that time I’ve been able to contribute to running a vital service in my local community.

How do I get involved or find out more?

If you’re interested in finding out more check out MREW or Scottish Mountain Rescue to see if there’s a team in your local area to get in touch with and find out more. Most teams have strict induction periods for new trainees and will do a pre-assessment of your skills to check it worth you sign up and committing the time.
If you don’t think you have the time but would still love to get involved, most teams also have a dedicated friends group who help them with fundraising and promotional work at galas, as well as being exercise casualties for training. It generally costs around £20k a year to keep a team going in terms of upkeep of vehicles, first aid and other equipment, radios and clothing. So get involved!
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