Members of both Houses of Parliament supportive of Mountain Rescue funding campaign

Representatives of mountain and cave rescue teams from across England and Wales were in Parliament last week and met with over 80 MPs and members of the House of Lords during that time.Mountain Rescue looking across River Thames at Parliament, London.

David Allen is the Chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW): “We focused on two key messages: the breadth of what we are asked to do and the funding gap with similar services,” he said. “We were encouraged by the level of interest, the obvious support and the understanding of our current status as volunteers providing a vital service. We now need to clarify the next steps in our campaign to achieve regular and significant funding from central government.”

The exhibition ran in the Upper Waiting Hall in the Palace of Westminster from Monday to Friday and a Reception, sponsored by Penrith and the Border MP and leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Rescue Services, Rory Stewart OBE MP, was held on Tuesday night (29 October) and attracted about 50 people from both Houses.

“I believe that this was an important event for Parliament because mountain rescue represents one of the very solid examples in the country of volunteers, people unpaid doing something which is completely vital to the public interest,” said Rory Stewart. “For Parliament to concentrate on that and to get nearly fifty MPs in a reception, meeting mountain rescue people, I think it is going to be very important in changing perceptions of what volunteers do for us in society.”

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue were called out 31 times in the last 12 months, as a team spending a total of 1670 volunteer hours searching for and rescuing people. The average callout lasts 5hours. The majority were land searches followed by cliff and water rescues.

Rory Stewart had invited the Prime Minister, David Cameron to attend the Reception and, although unable to do so, he wrote in reply and commented that: “The work carried out by the volunteers and everyone involved in this service is immensely worthy of praise and recognition.”

Andrew Bingham, MP for High Peak and based in Buxton, attended the reception: “It was great to be there to support the mountain rescue because they do such a fantastic job across the whole of the High Peak area.  They really are the extra emergency service that not only residents rely on but also all the visitors that we get across Kinder. Without the mountain rescue, we really would be struggling.”

David Amess, MP for Southend West, also attended the exhibition and spoke to members of MREW: “I thoroughly admire the courage, dedication and commitment of the rescue service in assisting desperate people in the mountains. It is important to acknowledge how they put their lives at risk for the safety of others,” he added.

“Volunteer rescuers, about 3,600 of them in England and Wales, are available 24/7 throughout the year for local call outs,” said MREW Head of Fundraising, Mike France, “and they have to train for many different situations and needs. So it seems crazy that they also have to find time for fundraising just to keep their Teams going and we’re hoping that the week’s discussions in Westminster will have shown MPs the huge discrepancy between the financial support given by government to Scottish rescuers – about £16,480 per team – and the much more limited funding to English teams of just £2,246 per team.”

“If government could guarantee a level of funding from the public purse closer to the Scottish figure, we’d be able to underwrite investments in vehicles and essential kit and subsidise essential training and insurance and our volunteer rescuers would be able to focus on getting the job done rather than having to worry about money.”

“We had great support last week from the MPs local to our rescue teams and representing the key areas for our more obvious work,” said David Allen, “and the Reception enabled us to extend this knowledge and support throughout Parliament. We will continue to work with Rory and the APPG to move this campaign on and explore the options for future funding.”

Posted on 08 / 11 / 2013

Mountain Rescue at the Houses of Parliament

Next week there’s an exhibition at the Houses of Parliament organised by Mountain Rescue England and Wales, I’ve let all the MP’s in our area know why they should stop by and find out more about how mountain rescue teams have changed and why they need supporting.
In our area for example;
  • 85% of our callouts involve searching for and rescuing despondents, people with mental problems and the elderly who may have walked away from care homes.
  • Avon & Somerset has the highest inland cliffs in the country at Cheddar Gorge and a suicide hotspot in Avon Gorge plus numerous quarries and mines all requiring a specialist technical response beyond the capability of the Fire & Rescue Service.
  • With the increase in flooding incidents our bankside search and rescue techniques and swiftwater rescue capability has been called on regularly.
  • We are Avon & Somerset Police’s chosen search and rescue partner available 24/7, 365 days a year, staffed entirely by volunteers.

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue_searching_woods

Posted on 23 / 10 / 2013

Selection Weekend 28-29/9/2013

We have another selection weekend this September due to increased interest. The selection weekend will take place on 28-29 September near Bristol. If you would like to try and join the team please email the address below. The weekend includes talks, practical sessions and training, a night navigation course and a search & rescue exercise.

Details have been sent out to nearly 30 individuals but it’s not too late to receive details. We’re not looking for any specific skills but are expecting you to be comfortable for prolonged periods outdoors, reasonably fit as most call-outs last over 2 hours, are calm and able to fit in with a close knit team.

If you would like to receive details please email communication@ascrt.com

Posted on 14 / 07 / 2013

HEMS & HART Awareness

ASSAR operates with other emergency services on a regular basis during the rescue stage of callouts. Training visits to these services are vital to ensure awareness of capabilities is maintained. These visits are also important for ASSAR to ensure other services are equally aware of our role for Avon & Somerset Police. ASSAR trainees and members recently visited the Great Western Air Ambulance base at Filton and the nearby HART – Hazardous Area Response Team.

Operating safely around helicopters is a fundamental requirement of any search and rescue team. An appreciation of what assets are available to help is important, from the fast air ambulance that can bring expert medical care to the RAF Sea Kings that can winch casualties to safety. Team members and trainees visited the air ambulance base for a tour and briefing delivered by one of the critical care paramedics, also an ASSAR member.

HART were established after the London Tube bombings in 2007 to train paramedics to work alongside Fire & Rescue and other emergency services in difficult areas. They have responded to various incidents involving cliffs, caves and floods alongside ASSAR. The tour demonstrated the type of vehicles and supporting kit that HART can bring to a rescue.

Our thanks go to all those involved that showed us around their respective units, especially Pete Sadler Critical Care Paramedic from the Great Western Air Ambulance for organising the day. Please support the valuable work of this charity through their site.

ASSAR members and trainees visiting the Filton HART base.

ASSAR members and trainees visiting the Filton HART base.

ASSAR trainees learning how to load the Great Western Air Ambulance.

ASSAR trainees learning how to load the Great Western Air Ambulance.

Posted on 30 / 06 / 2013

Police cadets shine at Search & Rescue

Members of ASSAR have spent the last couple of Thursday evenings helping police cadets from North Somerset understand how we support the police with search and rescue. Their learning was put to the test on Saturday with an exercise involving finding clues, working out the direction of travel of a missing person, searching paths, looking after a casualty and moving them to a safe location. Quite a challenge. The cadets were brilliant. Their teamwork and communication shone through. Even our ‘casualty’ said she felt ’safe and secure’!

North Somerset police cadets place a casualty in a vacuum mattress during a search and rescue exercise with ASSAR.

North Somerset police cadets place a casualty in a vacuum mattress during a search and rescue exercise with ASSAR.

Posted on 16 / 06 / 2013

Joint Exercise with Exmoor SRT

ASSAR and Exmoor SRT have supported each other several times over the years on call-outs. To ensure knowledge and appreciation of each team’s techniques a joint training exercise was organised by Exmoor SRT.

The two teams, joined by Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, combined for a multi-scenario exercise involving injured canoeist, injured bird-spotter and a horse trapped in a ditch on top of its rider. Luckily the horse was a mannequin but still the average weight of a horse with articulated limbs.

ASSAR, Exmoor SRT and D&S Fire and Rescue Service debrief after the exercise.

ASSAR, Exmoor SRT and D&S Fire and Rescue Service debrief after the exercise.

The secretary of ASSAR said, “The three agencies worked extremely well together, sharing ideas and gaining a realinsight. It’s the little things that count, our standard procedures are the same but each team will develop it’s own techniques according to the local circumstances. Our thanks go to the training team at Exmoor SRT and all their members for setting up the day.”

For more details on Exmoor SRT.

Posted on 10 / 06 / 2013

Blisters on the Big Black Mountain Challenge raises £1055

Eight members of the University of Bristol’s German Department raised an amazing £1055 for their chosen charity: Avon and Somerset Search and Rescue. The team included an ASSAR volunteer. They took part in the Big Black Mountains Challenge enduring blisters, injured ankles and sore muscles but they said it was all worth it.

We would like to thank all those involved for their fantastic effort.

Members of the University of Bristol's German Dept presenting the cheque for £1055 to Duncan Massey, Chair of A&SSAR.

Members of the University of Bristol's German Dept presenting the cheque for £1055 to Duncan Massey, Chair of A&SSAR.

Posted on 06 / 06 / 2013

Critical Care Experience

A member of A&SSAR accompanied a Critical Care Paramedic on a shift recently to increase his skills in dealing with medical emergencies. As volunteers who never know when they’re skills are going to be called upon it’s important they undergo a variety of training and experience to maintain their competency levels.

The air ambulance base at Filton also provides rapid response vehicles for their critical care paramedics alongside the helicopter. A&SSAR is a co-responder with South West Ambulance Service allowing its members to act as ‘observers’. Operating from here with the paramedic the member was able to gain valuable insight into the high professional standards along with hands-on experience at a cardiac arrest.

Members of A&SSAR all need to hold an annual Basic Life Support certificate, including paediatrics. Many also hold a Casualty Care certificate, a qualification specific to mountain rescue teams. The member commented, ‘I’ve recently re-certified as a Casualty Carer so this was a great chance to develop my skills. As volunteers on call 365 days a year we never know when we’re going to need these skills so it’s important to keep them up-to-date. My thanks to the Great Western Air Ambulance team for this opportunity’.

The Critical Care Paramedic is also a member of A&SSAR. The combination of unique skills brought to the team by each volunteer ensures A&SSAR remain the search and rescue specialists for Avon & Somerset Police.

A&SSAR observed accompanying Critical Care Paramedic

A&SSAR observer accompanying Critical Care Paramedic.

Posted on 29 / 04 / 2013

On a Callout with ASSAR?

Do you want to know what it’s like to come on a callout with ASSAR? If you’re part of a group that organises speakers or would just like to have a presentation on our role please get in touch.

We offer an intriguing look behind the scenes at the callout process, how we search and rescue people that are far from help. We can travel to any group meeting in Avon and Somerset and simply ask that a donation be made to the team.

If you would like to find out more please contact communication@ascrt.comCrowd waiting for ASSAR speaker

Posted on 18 / 03 / 2013

Selection Weekend 2013 Update

Eleven potential new members undertook the selection weekend this year. The first step in the ASSAR joining process is to attend the selection weekend. The weekend is a series of tasks, talks and exercises carefully designed to see how people operate in teams, under stress and with current team members. The weekend ends with a large search and rescue exercise where the potential new members work alongside the team to locate and then rescue a missing person.

The committee would like to thank those that committed time and effort by attending the weekend. The team is built on a succession of new people developing through the team and their effort is appreciated. If the attendees are successful they will need to attend 6 months of training before becoming an ‘aspirant’ and allowed on certain call-outs. It may be another year before they are granted full team member status.

The next selection weekend will be in 2014.

ASSAR selection weekend 2013

Potential new members during an exercise with ASSAR as part of the selection weekend 2013

Posted on 05 / 03 / 2013