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Training in Mountain Rescue has come a long way from the establishment of the first Irish Mountain Rescue Team's back in the early 1960's. Before the formal establishment of these teams, the normal course of events was that the local Garda / Police Officer, some locals and whatever mountaineers the Garda could round up, would head up the mountain with a stretcher (sometimes not fit for purpose) and effect a rescue, but the problem was, what happened when there was not enough people around to help?
The ethos of mountain rescue is "Mountaineers helping other mountaineers in trouble".
Mountain rescue came about with groups of individuals banding together, often coming from mountaineering clubs or as for us, the Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team, our roots and origins emanate from the An Óige Mountain Rescue Team.
These were dedicated groups of mountaineers who came together to form the first mountain rescue teams in Ireland and would be there for others in their time of need.
The training back then was the skills and knowledge of what the individual mountaineer had, there was no formal training in mountain rescue in the early days.
As mountain rescue progressed here in Ireland, we looked further afield to broaden our knowledge and to build capacity. We wanted to find out what best practices were in use across the water with the mountain rescue teams of England, Scotland and Wales.
With development of specialised mountain rescue equipment and procedures, this lead to more formal courses in mountain rescue. We then began looking further afield to build our knowledge base, members were then sent forth to Europe and America to come back with new ideas, best practices and new pieces of specialised equipment.
To be a team member in a modern rescue team, means dedication and time devotion, not just for rescuing people who find themselves in need of our services but for the time commitment with regard to training.
To become a member of the DWMRT applications are accepted and reviewed by the Team Leader and the Deputy Team Leaders. Once the application is approved those who want to join start on their probationary period which normally lasts between 12 to 18 months, this is to ensure that people have the right skill set. Would-be members should already be an active mountaineer, we are not here to train people how to become good hill-walkers, there are plenty of clubs and training courses that would adequately meet those needs. During this period these probationary members are taught the basic skills for them to perform their role as a rescue team member. These skills include being a member of a search party, search techniques, radio procedures, stretcher techniques, steep ground safety, rope work & crag skills, helicopter skills and medical training. All this training is provided in house by the full team members. When you pass your probationary period and are a full rescue team member scheduled training consists of two training sessions a month which concentrates on core skills, you can now also avail of the wider range of courses beyond the team.
These are more specialised courses, to deal with specific training needs, these courses would include.
Party Leader Training
This course gives the individual the skills and knowledge to manage a Hill Party on the mountain in a rescue environment. The Party Leader who is first on the scene normally becomes the incident site commander, and he/she is the person who gets the job done and ensure the effective smooth running of the operation on the mountain side and in the link between the Rescue base (incident Co-ordinator) and the incident site.
Members attend several different courses in search management, this is a skill required to help collate and digest information about a missing person or missing group, it is the search managers job to come up with a plan of action of where the team should be looking for the missing person or group. A search is a "classic mystery" and it's up to the search managers to come up with the right answers.
To be a full team member on the rescue team, you must hold at least a Rescue & Emergency Care (REC) level 3 or its equivalent. We as a team are lucky, because we have a strong knowledge base of team members who come from a medical background and who can provide in-house training. On the team we have two Advanced Paramedics, Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians (E.M.T), First Responders, a nurse and members who have completed up to expedition REC. The team is a registered training site with the Irish Heart Foundation, and we provide Family & Friends CPR days to the community as well as ensuring that all members are up to Health Care Provider Level.
As well as standard medical courses, team members have furthered their own knowledge with further education by attending courses such as the Wilderness EMT, Emergency Care For Mountain Rescue (ECMR), International Trauma Life Support, Emergency Medical Technician course.
Rope Access & Rescue
The team again is lucky in respect that several team members work for a rope rescue company and they help provide the necessary skills for the teaching of rope rescue. The team also run a rigging for rescue course and are looking at further afield to enhance our rope rescue skills.
When every other sane person pulls the curtains and puts another log on the fire or turns up their central heating because it is minus -5°C outside, we are there to help those who need us. It is important for us to have the right equipment but more importantly the right training. For a number of years the team has sent members on various winter rescue skills training courses including, the Glenmore Lodge Winter Mountain Rescue Course, we have also arrange bespoke design training courses for the team by subject matter experts like Mike Tighe. Early this year 14 team members were put through their paces and pushed to their limits when they went to Bulgaria and joined up with the local mountain rescue training centre for a week long winter mountain rescue skills course.
Operation Co-ordination Course
This year see's the Irish Mountain Rescue Association (IMRA) first specific designed Op's Co-ordination course and 5 members of the DWMRT will be attending. The course is designed for those who take a leading role in running operations and deal with issues in relation to incident planning, briefing, de-briefing, inter agency liaison and critical incident stress management.
Fatal Incident Training
Team members have travelled to North Wales to undergo training with the North Wales Police in relation to Fatal Incident Protocol. This course teaches the members to understand the importance of scene preservation, the do's and don'ts at a scene. The course also sets out a structure for how to take evidence and to pass this information over to the police service.
The DWMRT has played an active part in developing Mountain Rescue in Ireland and two of the team members sit on the Training & Development sub-committee of IMRA. The DWMRT hosts the IMRA party leader course every year which is a key training program for development of mountain rescue teams.
As mountain rescue develops, who knows what training will be out there.
Training and development is the key to our own teams development, this means developing the team as well as individuals for a better response to those who need our help in their time of need............