Casualties – number, names (and, if possible, age); type of injuries, for example, lower leg, head injury, collapse, drowning etc.
Hazards to the rescuers – for example, strong winds, avalanche, rock fall, dangerous animals.
Access – the name of mountain area and description of the terrain. It may be appropriate to describe the approach and any distinguishing features such as an orange survival bag. Information on the weather conditions at the incident site is useful, particularly if you are in cloud or mist.
Location of the incident – a grid reference and a description is ideal. Don't forget to give the map sheet number and please say if the grid reference is from a GPS device.
Equipment at the scene – for example, torches, other mobile phones, group shelters, medical personnel.
Type of incident – mountain, cave etc. Be prepared to give a brief description of the time and apparent cause of the incident.
Many people visiting the Yorkshire Dales don’t know how to get help if there is an accident or if someone is missing or overdue. That’s the claim of the three volunteer search and rescue teams which provide a safety net for walkers, cavers, climbers, casual visitors and others who venture out into the local countyside. So the teams – Cave Rescue Organisation, Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association and Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team are taking the initiative with a major campaign to help people get it right if they need help away from a metalled road. The campaign is being given practical and financial support by the North Yorkshire Police and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. “Seasoned outdoors people know that when you ring 999 for a rescue team, you should ask for ‘Police’, then ask them for mountain or cave rescue.” said Rae Lonsdale, a CRO duty controller, who has been working on the initiative. “Often, in that fraught time immediately after an accident, less experienced people can ask for an ambulance, without thinking – and sometimes without telling the ambulance service dispatcher about the remoteness or inaccessibility of the site where help is needed. So, we’ve published advice on a card that folds to credit-card size and fits easily into a wallet or the first aid kit that every party should carry.”
Between them, the three teams aim to put posters and card dispensers into over 300 outlets around the area, where outdoor retailers, accommodation providers and attraction or information centre operators are prepared to help their local team to promote the campaign. “Essentially, the message is that if you need help, beyond the road network, you probably need a rescue team. In that case, call ‘999’ ask for ‘Police’ and ask them for ‘mountain rescue’ or ‘cave rescue’ – the effect is the same. If using a mobile, it is helpful to say which county you are in, as 999 operators may not have an intimate knowledge of rural England and calls from high points may go some miles to reach a phone mast. If you have a map, it is important to give both grid reference and a verbal description of where you are, as numbers alone may easily be mis-heard. After that, answer any other questions and stay by the phone and where you have a signal and keep the line clear so you can be called back”
Chris Booth, UWFRA Controller said “The campaign has been given a great welcome by supportive retailers and a good example is an outdoor shop in Grassington which puts a card in with every purchase. However, this is just the first phase of the campaign. As well as search and rescue, above and below ground, all three teams have safety education included in their charitable purposes. The amount of information that will fit on the card is of course limited, so the next step will be to provide links from each team’s web-site to additional sites for sources of safety advice or providers of outdoor training.”
The Assistant Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Sue Cross remarking on the campaign “This really is an excellent initiative and we are most pleased to join the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority and the Dales Business Community in giving it our practical support. Along with our partners in the other emergency services, we greatly appreciate the support of all the five volunteer Search and Rescue teams in North Yorkshire. In particular, I would like to thank the three teams involved in this campaign. All the teams do a fantastic job, they are always there when we need them, often turning out in the most dreadful of conditions and always providing a highly professional support service. The campaign will most certainly help to save lives and the combined support it is already receiving will ensure it becomes a permanent part of everyday life in the Dales. It is another example of working together in the interests of public safety”
Prepare and plan
- Develop the mountain skills you need to judge potential hazard, including the ability to read a map.
- Think about the equipment, experience, capabilities and enthusiasm of your party members, taking into account the time of year, the terrain and the nature of the trip – and choose your routes accordingly.
- Learn the basic principles of first aid – airway, breathing, circulation and the recovery position. It could make the difference between life and death.
Wear suitable clothing and footwear
- Wear suitable footwear with a treaded sole, and which provides support for ankles.
- Clothing should be colorful, warm, windproof and waterproof and always carry spare, including hat and gloves (even in summer the tops and open moorland can still be bitingly cold, and it's always colder the higher you climb).
Carry food and drink...
- Take ample food and drink for each member of the party. High energy food such as chocolate and dried fruit are ideal for a quick hit.
- In cold, wet weather a warm drink is advisable, and always carry water – even in cool weather it's easy to become dehydrated.
- Of course, large quantities of water can weigh heavy in the rucksack, so take a smaller water bottle and top up when you can – streams on hills are drinkable if fast-running over stony beds.
...and the right equipment
- A map and compass are essential kit and should be easily accessible – not buried in the rucksack!
- A mobile phone and GPS are useful tools but don't rely on your mobile to get you out of trouble – in may areas of the mountains there is no signal coverage.
- Take a whistle and learn the signal for rescue. Six good long blasts. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on the whistle blasts until someone reaches you and don't stop because you've heard a reply – rescuers may be using your blasts as a direction finder.
- A torch (plus spare batteries and bulbs) is a must. Use it for signalling in the same pattern as for whistle blasts.
- At least one reliable watch in the party.
- Climbers and mountain bikers should wear a helmet. In winter conditions, an ice-axe, crampons and survival bag are essential.
- Emergency survival kit comprising spare clothing and a bivvi bag.
Before you set out
- Charge your phone battery! Many accidents occur towards the end of the day when both you and your phone may be low on energy.
- Check the weather forecast and local conditions. Mountains can be major undertakings and, in the winter months, night falls early.
- Eat well before you start out.
- Leave your route plan including start and finish points, estimated time of return and contact details with an appropriate party.
On the hill
- Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to turn back if conditions turn against you, even if this upsets a long planned adventure.
- Make sure party leaders are experienced. Keep together, allow the slowest member of the party to determine the pace, and take special care of the youngest and weakest in dangerous places.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia, particularly in bad weather – disorientation, shivering, tiredness, pale complexion and loss of circulation in hands or toes, discarding of vital clothing. Children and older people are especially susceptible.
- If you prefer to go alone, be aware of the additional risk. Let people know your route before you start, stick to it as far as you can and notify them of any changes.
- If you think you need mountain rescue get a message to the Police (999) as soon as possible and keep injured/exhausted people safe and warm until help reaches you.
Dangers you can avoid
- Precipices and unstable boulders.
- Slopes of ice or steep snow, and snow cornices on ridges or gully tops.
- Very steep grass slopes, especially if frozen or wet.
- Gullies, gorges and stream beds, and streams in spate.
- Exceeding your experience and abilities and loss of concentration.
Dangers you need to monitor
- Weather changes – mist, gales, rain and snow may be sudden and more extreme than forecast.
- Ice on path (know how to use an ice-axe and crampons).
- Excessive cold or heat (dress appropriately and carry spare clothing!).
- Exhaustion (know the signs, rest and keep warm).
- Passage of time – especially true when under pressure – allow extra time in winter or night time conditions.
Following these guidelines will help to keep your trip safe:
- Always include experienced cavers in the party.
- Seek the advice of local experts and act on it.
- Take notice of the local weather forecast and ground conditions. Flooding can happen very quickly and violently.
- Perfect ladder and rope techniques above ground before trying them underground
- Make sure you carry at least one reliable headlamp for each person. Without light you are trapped.
- Ensure you wear clothing and footwear suitable for your trip.
- Always carry emergency lights, food, a first-aid kit and survival bag.
- Leave a note of your trip and latest time of return with a responsible person. Make sure they are aware of how to contact cave rescue. Confirm your safe exit with them.
- Pick a cave or pothole within everyone’s capabilities and be sure of the route to avoid becoming lost. Ensure all members of your party are skilled in the techniques needed to progress within the cave.
- Check ropes, ladders and belays before use and ensure they are rigged properly before hanging your life on them; check that ropes are long enough and always knotted at the lower end. (See page 13 for Eco-Anchor Safety checks)
- An accident underground is always easy; rescue is difficult and sometimes impossible. Most accidents are caused by falls, loose boulders, rising water and exposure. Take special care in these situations.
- Your exit from the cave can take much more effort than entry – plan your trip with the return in mind.
- Never cave alone without considerable experience and take advanced safety precautions.
Source: British Caving Association Members Handbook 2009-10