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Calling out Mountain Rescue
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I came across this very informative article the other day and thought it was so useful that it was worth sharing, written by a former control room inspector at Cumbria Police headquarter. It goes through what happens when you dial 999 for Mountain Rescue, and importantly, where things are likely to go wrong. Here are a few of the key points and common mistakes that are worth highlighting:

How to call out Mountain Rescue

Phone 999, ask for the Police and then ask for Mountain Rescue. The operator will then take down details of the incident and contact Mountain Rescue. Be aware that the operator might never have been on a mountain in their life, so be as precise as possible.

Also, make sure you're signed up for the emergency SMS service, as often signal is bad enough so you can't make a call, but you'll still be able to send a text.

What information should you give them?

  • Location, with a six-figure grid reference. Be precise and be aware of multiple places having the same name (e.g. there are many Raven Crags in the Lake District).
  • Describe the incident and how serious the casualty is.
  • State where you started from and by what route you ascended.
  • Describe the group you're with (e.g. are there any children?) and what equipment and food you have. Give phone numbers of other group members.
  • Do not move from that location.
The most important one of the above is location and you should provide the operator with this first, in case the call is cut off for whatever reason (poor signal, lack of battery).

What happens then?

You should expect a call from a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) within 15 minutes. If you hear nothing within 15 minutes, phone 999 again. It is possible that Mountain Rescue haven't been able to contact you because your phone hasn't any signal on the network you are on. Phoning 999 will use any available network and hence is much more likely to connect; the operator can then transfer your call directly to the MRT.

It will be a while before an MRT arrives. Remember that they are all volunteers that will have dropped whatever else they were doing, rushed to the team base, got changed, driven as far as they can towards the incident and then walked the rest, all with heavy and uncomfortable gear.

Top tips

  • Make sure your phone is fully charged whenever you set out into the hills and make sure it's with you (even if you're just going for a quick run up a local hill). I turn off the mobile network as this drains the battery.
  • Make sure your map has the grid reference numbers on it. A common mistake when printing out maps from software such as Memory Map is to forget out the grid numbers.
  • If you're in the mountains when abroad, make sure you know what number to call in case of any emergency.
  • Likewise, make sure you have appropriate insurance that covers you for mountain rescue. In certain countries, rescue can cost upwards of tens of thousands of pounds.


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