Currently the team has two operational vehicles in the form of a Mercedes Sprinter and a Land Rover 110. Both are highly customised to perform their chosen roles. Any full team member with a valid driving licence can use these vehicles after they have had an orientation. These vehicles are vital to the efficient operation of the team and work closely alongside those of Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team in the Northumberland and Tyne and Wear areas. Both our vehicles are stationed at West Denton fire station.
Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 LWB
This is the main command and control vehicle for both teams and is driven to larger scale incidents. It was purchased through a successful bid to the National Lottery grant.
For small scale operations such as an ambulance assist or to rescue someone in a known location it will probably stay at base. Although nowhere near as maneuverable as the Land Rover it is still a highly capable off road machine in its own right.
Large ground clearance and electronically selectable four wheel drive mean that the Sprinter can position itself in remote locations to conduct operations. Here are some of the features:
Command & Control
The primary function of this vehicle is to coordinate efforts of all the resources that are available for any single callout (or multiple callouts). It is equipped with hardware and software to enable this core role. Communication comes in the form of digital high band radios that also deliver gps locations. The emergency airwaves system on board links in to the police, ambulance service, fire brigade etc. Both of these have an antenna on a 10m mast fixed to the side of the body.
Software for coordinating activity is vital in terms of tactical and strategic functions. MX Map/SARMAN allow for detailed development of search plans with large tracts of land divided up into sections and routes. Evidence, find sites, last known locations and more can be plotted. This software is combined with MR Map - a tracking system that shows all the digital handsets, mobile phone beacons and spot trackers to display locations of team members. The final piece is SARCALL, an emergency services wide logging system to keep an overall track of progress. There are many other bits of software and hardware but those listed above provide the backbone.
This is a long wheel base Sprinter so it has plenty of space. It’s essentially split into three parts for layout. In the front are three standard seats. In the middle is the control area where the duty controllers sit and operate from. This has fixed bench seats and two fold down seats. The walls can be written on and wiped down. There are two PCs running off an inverter, one monitor, a heater, various light controls and all the control systems mentioned above. In the rear of the vehicle is the equipment which pretty much mirrors what is in the Land Rover, more of which later. The Mercedes can be set up to take a stretcher.
Equipment is stored in the rear of the vehicle. This allows the Sprinter to be a self contained rescue unit should no other vehicle be available. Kit includes items such as a Bell stretcher, MIBS stretcher and scoop stretcher, crag rescue systems (ropes, pins, talons, karabiners, slings, etc), group bags (first aid, cas bag or blizzard bag, tabards, group shelter, First Aid products, Helicopter strobes and a vacuum mat. We can't forget about the kettle either - arguably the MOST valuable item we have!
Land Rover 110
Ask any member of the public about Mountain Rescue vehicles and they will automatically think of Land Rovers. A brand that has been synonymous with tough and utilitarian vehicles over the years. Although the current models may have moved away from this a little, the older ones still provide that hardcore platform that can be configured to demanding needs. Our team 110 is the worker bee that buzzes around the queen bee Sprinter. Its role is to be on the ground and moving resources about to get the job done. Any full team member with a full driving licence and orientation session can use it. Only those who have taken the appropriate police course can use the blue lights to make progress.
Think Land Rover, think 4x4. The reason these became so popular was the simplicity of the set up. Modern day cars use electronic selection of four wheel drive whereas the Defender sticks to almighty levers. Sitting next to the gearbox is a transfer box where drivers can select high or low ratio and also engage diff lock. It does not have the fancy electronic systems for power transfer but instead trades this for simplicity of use. Sitting next to this is the transmission engaged handbrake which is highly effective.
The vehicle has good ground clearance. This allows it to creep over rocks, fords and to get underneath to dig it out should you get stuck. Traction is provided by BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres that offer a superb compromise between off road, on road and wear. The engine is a 2.4 Ford commonly found in the Transit of the time. Final mention goes to the roof rack. We keep very little on the top except antennas, lights and a recovery jack. The main use is when using a stretcher inside - all the kit comes out and gets strapped to the roof.
A superb characteristic of the Defender is its ability to be configured any way you like. The front seats are standard. Underneath the passenger seat are dual batteries for both vehicle and auxiliary systems. On the dashboard are radios, blue light controls, documentation, tablet computer and more. The rear seats are a removable bench with some key kit stored underneath. The rear compartment has a steel cage behind it which can drop down to become a stretcher base - unlucky for those who were sitting there and now have to walk!
In the rear is all the main kit to be a rapid response vehicle, such as:
- Bell stretcher
- Crag rescue systems (ropes, pins, talons, karabiners, slings, etc)
- Group bags (first aid, cas bag or blizzard bags, tabards, group shelter)
- First aid products including medical gases
- Vacuum mat
As mentioned above the rear area gets cleared out when there is a stretcher to be placed in. The steel cage falls on the rear seats and the rear compartment to form a solid base. The stretcher is then inserted and secured for transportation whilst a medic sits nearby to monitor the casualty.
The two standard communication systems in the vehicle are the digital highband and airwaves systems. There is a tablet that connects to the highband to give the vehicle a view on the tracking system. This is very useful when picking up and dropping off teams and it allows effective use of resources.