Search & Rescue

The mountain and cave rescue service in England and Wales is provided by around 3500 volunteers, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Whatever the weather.

Our bread and butter may be the wild and wonderful uplands of England and Wales but, besides being called to help those who become ill or injured in the moorlands and mountains, teams are frequently tasked to assist the police in the search of semi-urban areas for missing persons – the young, the old, the vulnerable.

Our fellow teams have assisted the ambulance service with remote or difficult to access areas. Provided expertise and manpower during major civil emergencies such as the Grayrigg train crash or the Lockerbie disaster; assisted the fire service with moorland fires in Yorkshire and the Lake District; helped rescue people from their own homes during extensive flooding in Gloucestershire, Carlisle and South Yorkshire; and searched snowbound roads for stranded motorists. We search for forensic evidence and help preserve the scenes of crime.

The mountain and cave rescue service in the UK is the responsibility of the police, under their obligation to ‘protect life and property’. Teams – and the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) – are called out through the 999 system, and work with the police, ambulance or fire service according to the nature of the incident. They frequently work with the RAF Search & Rescue (RAF SAR) and increasingly with the various air ambulances.Incidents on sea cliffs are coordinated by HM Coastguard although in some areas joint arrangements are in place.

RAF Search and Rescue 163 helicopter

Teams are gathered into eight regional organisations according to their geographical area of operation. These, in turn, are members of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, the national coordinating body for mountain rescue in England and Wales alongside the British Cave Rescue Council, the NSARDA, the Association of Chief Police Officers, HM Coastguard, RAF SAR, Ofcom, the Fire Service Inspectorate, The Sports Council and the Association of Chief Ambulance Officers.
 A voluntary body, and a registered charity in its own right, its main function is to liaise on behalf of the teams with the various government departments in the running of mountain and cave rescue. Various items of equipment such as stretchers, ropes and first aid equipment, are provided from the national purse, along with public liability insurance and accident insurance for team members when they are training or operational. In Scotland, this role is played by the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland.

They also publish a range of useful statistical and research material and our recently relaunched handbook, ‘Call Out Mountain Rescue. A Pocket Guide to Safety on the Hill’, aimed at promoting safety awareness in the mountains and moorlands.