Much of the rescue equipment used for search and rescue is exactly the same as that which is used for general rock/ice climbing and alpine mountaineering. This includes such items as clothing, karabiners, slings, helmets and harnesses. Both nylon and pre-stretched ropes are used with pre-stretched being specifically used for lowering and fixed rope situations.
However the use that this equipment is put to is far harder and more frequent than the average outdoor enthusiast would manage. Lives depend on this equipment and it is not possible to cut corners on its quality or maintenance. We always follow best practice and manufacturers recommendations in terms of the use, maintenance and replacement of equipment. This means that we are left with a very large on-going expenditure just to provision of equipment which is due for replacement.
In addition to the general equipment there are a number of specialist pieces of equipment which have been developed for mountain rescue work.
Stretchers used in search and rescue must be able to be carried to the casualty, and carried for long distances over rough terrain with the casualty on them. They must be able to be lowered on ropes down rock faces, winched by helicopters, and withstand the most severe weather. To meet these demands a number of specialist stretchers have been developed which are now used around the world, the stretcher that we have been reliant on for numerous years is the Bell stretcher. The Bell is very versatile in our environment and meets all the requirements that we would generally be required to do.
Our national body, Mountain Rescue England and Wales, has also worked to identify and develop a vacuum mattress suitable for mountain rescue work. These mattresses allow the whole of a casualty’s body to be splinted and immobilised, this is vital where spinal injuries are suspected.
Keeping casualties warm is always important, and we use special bags rather like sleeping bags to achieve this. There are two main types of bags, lightweight and heavyweight. Lightweight bags are made by a variety of manufacturers and are used where conditions are not too extreme. The MREW have developed a specialist heavy duty casualty bag which is now MREW standard issue and is ideal for use in extreme conditions. The bag features a full length zip and is long enough to accommodate the tallest of casualties. The bag has a waterproof lining and fibre pile inner. It has carrying straps and access to enable monitoring of the casualty without having to undo the whole bag.
These are just a few items of equipment that we require to give members of the public the most professional service we can However much work we need to put into fundraising to get the correct equipment to do the job to the best of the teams ability we will do it.