The team is under a constant process of training. This is to allow for any changes in techniques, equipment or even to respond to new scenarios such as pandemics or resilience as well as maintain competence in all core areas of our operations. Every trainee or team member must attain a certain level of attendance to ensure the team is competent when responding to callouts. The training covers core skills annually for both trainees and full team members.
The biggest obstacle to joining Mountain Rescue is getting on the team in the first place. There are criteria in an application pack which are presented to people interested in joining the team. The application pack details expectations of any new recruit in terms of essential and desireable pre-existing skills, qualifications and expected time commitments during the training year. The prerequisites the team looks for include a good ability to navigate, being well equipped and able to support yourself on the hill, have a first aid qualification, a driving licence and access to a vehicle to name a few. Included with the application pack is an application form. If applicants are successful at this stage, there is a meeting to have a real life discussion about joining the team and what it entails. This is also a chance for people to ask direct questions about what is expected.
The next step is an assessment day. This involves meeting up with some full members and being taken out on the hill to navigate. There will be plenty of conversation going on to find out a bit more about the potential trainee and what they have brought with them on the hill. At the end of the day this will all feed back to the training officer. Potential trainees will know soon after if they are to begin the 12 month training programme.
The last step is the training itself and this is the bit that can become a barrier to people becoming a full team member. This is a 12 month period where attendance is expected to be at least 60% for the year. It includes 12 evening sessions, 12 full days (usually Sunday) and of those there are core skill areas that must be ticked off, such as medical, rope work, comms, equipment and stretchers. There is a full team training weekend usually held in September where trainees can begin their training programme and ideally complete it one year later. This weekend has a skills circus on the Saturday and an example scenario and callout on the Sunday. After this 12 month period the whole situation is reviewed for each trainee and proposals made to the committee.
Full Team members
Just getting on the team is not enough to ensure an ongoing high skill level. The same training sessions mentioned in the trainee section above are also for full team members. It's amazing how quickly knowledge can be forgotten and only through constant reinforcement can the necessary skills and knowledge be maintained. In addition to the training there are a number of events such as marathons in remote places where the team provides medical event cover where team members deal with real situations.
There are a number of specialist areas where people can do extra training. For example if someone wants to focus on ropes then extra sessions can be held. Several team members advance their Casualty Care (Advanced First Aid) training and become qualified to administer controlled drugs. A number of courses such as Search Group Leader are also offered by MREW and give people a chance to develop. However, those are more suited to members who have developed suitable experience and shown commitment to the team. Some team members go on to train a search dog, again only once they have shown commitment to the team and to search dog training exercises. More information can be found in the section about Search Dogs.
Other topics that are frequently covered for full team members (as well as trainees) include mental health training, specifically how to handle a conversation with someone who is struggling with their mental health; safeguarding; navigation; helicopter training (both online and in reality); winter skills usually in Scotland; search techniques; crime scene awareness and water awareness.
The only other area of training worth mentioning for full team members is that for duty controllers. To run a callout requires experience and typically this knowledge is passed on from one controller to another. The specific expertise of search management does have a number of courses developed by MREW and we have 5 qualified search managers and 3 of which have completed the advanced level course.