Call outs post Covid 19 – How teams have adapted to operate

Call outs post Covid 19 – How teams have adapted to operate

16th April, 2020

“Team leaders callout – Police Scotland ref 0001. Male caller stated he has fallen and has injured his back.”

A text message from the police through our SARCALL system that team leaders and incident managers have received on countless occasions. In normal times this simple text triggers a response from the full Mountain Rescue Team. Volunteers dropping everything, an important work meeting, a child’s Birthday party, a family occasion to answer the call for help.

In these very difficult times our Mountain Rescue Teams will still respond but our leaders will be faced with even more difficult decisions to get the help to the person in need.

“Full team callout, male with injured back. Please state availability and standby”

This message to the team is different, normally it will be a call for all to respond to a specific meeting place (RV) as soon as possible, today it’s a request for availability as our team leader has to make the difficult decision who will go.

This is a new layer of deision making and is critical for our leaders to carry out. All Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams have been kept updated and breifed over the past few weeks following the many pages of guidance from Scottish Mountain Rescue and team medical officers, other Mountain Rescue medical professionals, the Scottish Government and our colleagues in Mountain Rescue England & Wales.

All team members are following the Scottish Government advice on self isolating if they or their household are showing symptoms and some team members are shielding due to medical conditions within their families. This leaves a number of team members available to respond however our team leader doesn’t want to send all of the team to this one incident, in the event of a team member or the casualty showing symptoms following a rescue we don’t want to have the whole team exposed.

Our leaders will decide who to deploy to the incident, this will be based on specific skill set (rope, medical, dog, drone) and also who is closest to the incident.

“Team members x,y,z please deploy and meet at the post (MR base) as soon as possible”

Our leaders now know who is coming to our RV. When team members arrive they are all trying their best to keep a social distance with each other. In normal times we pack as much kit and as many people into the team Landrover and deploy as quickly as possible. Today the team leader will send the Landrover with one team member in it, personal cars will follow.

When we arrive at the parking site and we will ensure that our medical bags contain the required PPE. Our teams will deploy and search or ascend the mountain in all weathers, this part of the risk assessment all are used to.

When we locate our casualty a number of steps will be taken that are outside of our usual protocols.

Team medics and Doctors who will be assessing and treating the casualty will be wearing a mask, apron, multiple pairs of gloves and possibly a face shield. The casualty will receive the same level of care that they would in normal times. In this case our casualty with the back injury is treated by medics and packaged safely on a mountain rescue stretcher and carried off the hill. Team members carrying the stretcher are also wearing gloves and our casualty is wearing a mask.

When we reach the bottom of the hill we transfer the casualty to the care of the ambulance service and start the process of safely removing our PPE.

Normally when team members get home they are able to relax with their families and sometimes with a cup of tea or a beer knowing that they have made a small difference to the casualties life.

In these times the team member will shed their clothes at the base or outside their house, they will ask for help to open doors and turn on the shower. When this has all been done they will wash their clothes, clean their kit and return to the base in a few days time to clean all the team equipment.

Every team member across mountain rescue is taking steps to reduce the impact to them and their families but also ensure that the casualty is also protected from team members. For team leaders this is an additional level of decision making, keeping the team and the public safe while ensuring that the team is able to respond to any future callouts.

Stay local and stay safe.

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