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What to do in an emergency in the hills and mountains

Written by Fiona

November 08 2021

No one thinks it will happen to them… but if you are involved in an accident in the hills or mountains, do you know what to do to do for your best chance of rescue?

Tell someone your route: Make sure a responsible someone, who is not going with you, knows what route you plan to take and when you are expecting to be back. Read about how to leave a route card.

Wear the right kit: You should be wearing the correct gear appropriate to your activity and the season. This includes footwear, warm layers and waterproofs.

A tip from a mountain rescue team member that I was chatting to recently was that brightly coloured clothing is best. He said: “If you are involved in an accident or you need to be found, wearing black will not help in the rescue. Brightly coloured clothing is much easier to spot on the hills and mountains.”

Take the right kit: Make sure you have plenty of spare clothes, food and water, as well as safety equipment, including a whistle, head torch (with spare batteries or – better – a spare torch), survival bag, group shelter, first aid kit and mobile phone. If you walk on your own, consider using an emergency satellite communication device, such as a Garmin inReach Mini, which allows you to maintain connection when your mobile phone signal does not. These gadgets let you send and receive text messages, track and share your journey, as well as trigger an SOS alert.

If you are involved in an accident you will want the rescue team to be able to find you as quickly as possible. This means you’ll need to be able to make contact with emergency services and also tell them accurately where you are.

Learn the skills: Commonsense dictates that you should be able to navigate your route and that you have the appropriate experience for the chosen activity and route. There are plenty of skills courses available and these may save your life.

Register with the 999 text service: You can do this now. Register your mobile phone with the 999 text service. If the phone signal is weak, it may still be enough for a text message and these can only be accepted if the phone used has been pre-registered.

Simply text the word “register” to 999. You will get a reply and you should then follow the instructions you are sent. This will take about two minutes and could save your life.

If you have an accident: Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Police and Mountain Rescue. If you can’t call, send a text as above. Better still, have a satellite communication device with you.

Know your exact location: This can be a six-figure grid reference or use

Read more: Mountain safety and advice.

Support Scottish Mountain Rescue. The teams rely on donations and goodwill gestures to maintain the free-to-the-public service.

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