Gari Finch joined the Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team in 1970 and has at various times been the Team's Chairperson and Secretary - and for 25-years he was our Call-out Officer. He remains an active and highly respected member of the Team to this day.
He had also served as the Chairperson of the North East Search & Rescue Association (NESRA) for 40-years until he recently retired from that post and accepted appointment to the position of the association’s President. NESRA is an umbrella body for the Mountain Rescue Teams across North Eastern England.
When Gari first became the NESRA Chairperson in 1980, Mountain Rescue facilities and equipment were very different compared to those that exist today. Teams did not have permanent Bases, their vehicles were usually ageing Land Rovers and/or similarly ageing control vehicles. Equipment was good for the day but limited, radios were large and often heavy and as to mobile phone - what were they? Call-outs were coordinated by land-line and the SARCALL computer system that is now a key component of Mountain Rescue work, didn't then exist. Maps were paper, not computerised although Gari says he remembers cloth ones - in fact he still has one!
Despite all those limitations, search and rescue work was very effective and the NESRA Teams worked very well together as they do now. The most significant call-out that Gari recalls was the Lockerbie disaster in 1988 when NESRA Teams made important contributions both in Lockerbie and Northumberland.
How things have changed. Teams now have Bases to be proud of with heating, storage and garage space along with training rooms, kitchens and sophisticated control rooms. Equipment that is top of the range including off-road vehicles along with Internet-connected control vehicles, computerised mapping, a variety of radios - even heating in control vehicles which Gari rates as a significant improvement! In the 2012 New Year Honours he was awarded the MBE for services to Mountain Rescue.
‘The casualty care driven by NESRA is of a very high standard, indeed NESRA have led the way in casualty care in Mountain Rescue for many years. The number of call-outs that NESRA Teams attend has drastically increased over the years, not just because there are more of the public engaged in an increasing variety of activities, but because police and ambulance personnel have complete confidence to call upon our services. That is down to years of hard work and the dedication of NESRA Teams. Also over the years our responsibilities have increased and we now have a strong and efficient water/flood rescue capability’.
‘All of these improvements have come at a big financial cost, and over the years many people in NESRA have raised money through grants, persuasion or sheer hard work. Our meetings sometimes were ‘interesting’ when there was a difference of opinion, but we never lost sight of the most important principle - the casualty on the hill. Whatever we do is in the interests of the casualty. NESRA is a brilliant organisation, with members who astonish me, never mind the public, with their dedication and selflessness. I look forward to being their President. I am honoured and humbled to be awarded the post. To my colleagues I say thank you for your confidence, I will try to be an active President and at the same time not get in your way!
Published: 29th October 2020