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Do you know how to call for help while hill walking?

Written by Fiona July 19 2013

Given that most hill walkers are aware of the dangers of changeable weather, the potential for falls and the general risks that they take hiking in the UK’s great outdoors, it comes as a huge surprise to discover that only a small number know what to do if they need emergency help.

According to a new survey, only five per cent of the 256 mountain users asked know of the correct procedure for calling out mountain rescue. Some two-thirds of those asked in the research undertaken in Wales said they would be more likely to ask for an ambulance, which the researchers say may lead to delays or an inappropriate response.

Staying safe and calling for help

imgres-11This blog explains the procedure for calling for help if you get into difficulties in the UK’s hills and mountains.

1)    Always carry  some kind of shelter (bivvy bag) and extra layers of clothing. A first aid kit can be a good idea in certain circumstances.

2)    If an accident or emergency occurs, make sure you and your party are in as safe a place as possible. (I.e. Don’t run around like headless chickens.)

3)    If there is a casualty attend to airway, breathing and circulation of the casualty. Make a quick assessment of injuries and treat as necessary.

4)    Provide shelter, warmth and comfort for casualty and group.

5)    Decide whether you can deal with the situation yourself, or require outside assistance. If in doubt, always be cautious and call the emergency services.

6)    Write down the position of the accident site including grid reference, injuries, time of accident and weather. Also note down the telephone numbers of other members in the group.

imgres-107)    If necessary, dial 999 or 112 (both work equally well) and ask for “Police – Mountain Rescue”.

8)    The Police will need the following information as a minimum:

  • The location of the incident (a six figure grid reference and a named feature)
  • The number of casualties
  • What is wrong with the casualties
  • Information about the casualties, eg whether their health/situation is deteriorating
  • Details of the equipment that you and the casualties have with you
  • Your contact telephone number

A note about mobile phones

Mobile phones have made asking for and getting help easier than ever before but hill walkers should be aware of their limitations in mountain areas where there may not be a signal.

In some situations to may be necessary to send someone (preferably two for safety) to a location where a phone signal is available.

Using SMS texting in an emergency

images-8Many people are not aware that they can use their mobile phone’s SMS text messaging to summon help from the emergency services. SMS uses a different technology to communicate than voice and data so it doesn’t need the same quality of reception. Transmission is also very fast and even with just a moment of poor reception, just as you press send, you could be able to summon help.

However, to use the service your mobile phone’s number must be pre-registered with the emergency services emergency SMS service.

Here’s how to do it now:

Send a SMS (text) message, REGISTER, to 112. Wait a few seconds for the reply.

Read the reply in full (it isn’t very long) and reply with another SMS message, YES.

You’ll get a final response saying your number is now registered. Don’t reply to that one though or else you might find the emergency services swing in to action trying to save you. Now you can use your mobile phone to send SMS messages in an emergency. Simple.

Of course, the SMS message should contain all the basic data the emergency services need to organise help. This should include:

  • Which Emergency Service is needed: Police, Ambulance, Coastguard, or Fire. Note again that the Police are responsible for organising Mountain Rescue, so always ask for the Police if you need help in the hills.
  • What is the problem?
  • Where is help needed. (Some location information may be automatically generated by the mobile network, i.e. the location of the cellular mast that receives the SMS text message.)

International distress signals

If a phone signal can’t be found remember the international distress signals of six blasts on a whistle (or six flashes of light) repeated at one-minute intervals.

10% discount for outdoors store

Readers of this blog can take advantage of a 10% discount for all on-line products sold at The Great Outdoors Superstore. Perhaps you’ll buy a new set of grippy walking boots or a rucksack for packing all your walking kit. Use the code FiOutDoors1013 when ordering on-line.

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