North of Tyne Mountain Team needs to have a wide range of kit to deal with a wide range of possible scenarios. The kit we use is tried and tested well before we use it on real rescues and we thoroughly train our members in its use so it can be used efficiently and safely when the pressure is on.
All our kit is carefully monitored with an asset log. Researching options, looking at what other agencies are using, agreeing what kit to buy, looking for the best prices, fundraising so we can make the purchase, training people to use the kit, maintaining and cleaning the kit etc. is all undertaken by our volunteers and is just some of the behind the scenes voluntary work we do. Let's take a look at some of the main kit we carry.
Rope rescues are commonly associated with Mountain Rescue and with good reason. We need to be able to respond to a wide range of possible scenarios involving steep or vertical ground. Over the years we've had various callouts involving fallen climbers, crag-fast children, medical issues on steep ground and more. Rope kit can be subdivided into two areas: steep ground kit and vertical rescue. Steep ground kit is frequently used to lower stretchers on steep ground where members carry the stretcher, but the rope is there as a backup in case someone slips. The stretcher is attached to a rope and lowered (or raised in some cases) whilst members take the weight. If someone slips, the casualty is safely secured by the rope. This system can be used on any callout where steep ground needs to be navigated.
For a steep ground system, we may use 100 or 50 meter ropes, slings, carabiners, rigging plates, Petzl Maestros, DMM Talons, ground pins and solid natural anchors to lower a casualty safely. The vertical rescue kit is used on very steep ground, where our team members aren’t able to support their own weight on their own feet. An example would be someone on a crag face. Where we are unable to support our own weight, we use a two rope system where both ropes are equally loaded - so that if one system fails, everyone is still protected. We may use natural anchors, pin systems or a combination - as long as all anchors are ‘unquestionably sound’. Usually, we’d lower one or more rescuers, with or without a stretcher to the casualty using Petzl Maestros.
Sometimes it’s necessary to complete difficult edge transitions - which we can also do! Naturally, we also have the ability to raise casualties too. We can do this using a rescue harness with a rescuer, vertically or horizontally on a stretcher, with one or more rescuers. To raise a casualty and rescuers, we use the Petzl Maestros as rope progress capture devices and use pulleys and Petzl Rescucenders to create 3:1, 5:1 or if necessary, 9:1 mechanical advantage hauling systems.
Where possible, we’d usually choose to lower the rescuers and casualty to the ground. Depending on the situation, we can complete a ‘crag snatch’ where we use a rescue harness to lower the casualty with the rescuer, or we can do a vertical or horizontal lower on a stretcher with one or two rescuing stretcher attendants.Edge attendants who oversee the rescue use Petzl Grillons as adjustable work restraint lanyards. Rescuers on the ropes use them during crag snatches, vertical and horizontal lowers and raises. As you can see, we lots of equipment and can get called out to a variety of people in a wide range of situations. Our volunteers must constantly train to ensure all the different rope systems can be safely and efficiently utilised when required, at a moments notice, regardless of the situation, terrain or weather.
Our main stretcher is the tried and tested Bell Stretcher. This hard wearing and durable stretcher comes in two parts and is quickly assembled when out in the field. Each half of the stretcher weighs around 12kg each and each half is carried to the incident site on the back of one rescuer - using the backpack style straps. Although not the lightest stretcher available, unlike some other stretchers, the Bell Stretcher comes complete with a head guard to protect the casualty, four handles that fold out to help the rescuers carry it and skids so it can be slid over suitable terrain, including vegetation and rock.
The Bell Stretcher can be winched into a helicopter using a lifting bridle and is easily carried due to its physical size and multiple attachment points. Though not light, the ability to get up to 8 rescuers to carry it at once makes it the ideal choice.
Where the terrain permits, we have an adjustable stretcher wheel that can be affixed to the underside of the stretcher. With rescuers steadying the stretcher, we can safely wheel the stretcher, reducing the physical effort of rescuers to get a casualty to definitive care. Although we regularly use our two Bell Stretchers, we also have a Ferno scoop stretcher and a MIBS stretcher which may be used.
Our volunteers attend all sorts of incidents in all sorts of places and searches and rescues often involve people who are in need of medical assistance. Both of our vehicles are kitted out with a wide range of medical kit so we can help those in need. We can use a Vacuum Mattress to support people with potential spinal injuries. When we mould this around a person and suck the air out, it supports the person which minimises movement. Often, those we rescue are cold. We use big winter casualty bags which are like a big sleeping bag to keep people warm. We also use Blizzard Bags and heat packs to try and reduce the amount of heat lost during a rescue. For walking casualties, we can use Blizzard Jackets too.
We use oxygen and some drugs, airways adjuncts, defibrillators, valve bag masks, vacuum, box and SAM splints, wound dressings, tourniquets, pelvic binders, traction devices, diagnostics kit - everything we need to help all the different people who need our help. All of the medical kit needs regularly checking, maintaining and periodically replacing by our volunteers through fundraising.
In the team we have Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Casualty Carers and First Aiders who maintain their skills to look after those who need our help. We train at least monthly to keep our medical competencies current and Casualty Carers need to pass regular exams to maintain their certification.
Because we go out in all weathers to a range of incidents, we need to be prepared no matter what the conditions are like.
In the winter we use stiff winter boots, crampons and ice axes to allow us to move around in snow and icy conditions. We also carry avalanche transceivers, snow probes and shovels to keep us and our team members safe.
Our team members train in these conditions every year to ensure we are ready to respond, no matter where or when we are needed.
This photo was taken in Northumberland.
We need to be able to communicate with our calling partners, for example the police or ambulance service, our control vehicle and each other.
We usually communicate using radios. We use both Police airwave radios and highband radios. We observe strict radio protocol, which again, requires constant training to ensure we can all communicate effectively.
We also make use of other methods including mobile phones which allows us to use technology including Zello. Having a range of options allows us to communicate efficiently to get those who need our help to definitive care as effectively as possible.