Stats in Mountain Rescue – why bother ?

Stats in Mountain Rescue “Why bother”

 

RAF Kinloss Stats 1945 - 2012

RAF Kinloss Stats 1945 – 2012

I have decided to write about something that few people will be aware of and

their relevance to Mountain Safety and nowadays to Mountain Rescue Funding. I

have been fortunate as for many years I was involved in meeting two of the main

protagonist of the Scottish Mountain Rescue Stats Ben Humble and John Hinde.

They compiled the Stats for the Scottish Mountain Rescue Committee; Ben was a

renowned mountaineer and had a great interest in mountain safety. When Ben

died he left a great legacy through the Scottish Mountaineering Club Annual

Journal where the Stats were put in since the early 40’s. Ben wrote and worked

tirelessly and his article “A survey of Mountain Accidents In Scotland 1925 – 45

“was a breakthrough at the time. After this Ben compiled a yearly listing of

Mountain Accidents in the Journals. It was when Ben passed away John Hinde

took over and did another outstanding job for many years; they left a unique

history and so much information for future generations especially in the aspects

of Mountain safety.

Nowadays Mountain Rescue Teams are extremely busy and after a call out the

last thing they need is to afterwards is to compile the call –out report. Yet they

are so important especially nowadays. I took over the Statistician job for several

years and had various problems keeping up with the reports. There were in these

days 400 call –outs many involving several teams. The paperwork involved was

very hard work and at times it was a constant battle to keep up to date. It

became nearly a full time job and kept me very busy in any spare time I had.

I did a talk a few years when I was the Scottish Mountain Rescue Statistician it

was to try to get the teams to realise how important they are. None of us like

paperwork but it is so essential especially when trying to raise funding from

Government Sources. I found this out the hard way in the late 80’s when they

were going to cut the RAF Teams or even get rid of them. It was a real panic but I

was the only Team with a history going back to 1944 and could prove to the

“Bean Counters” that 10% of our incidents were for military aircraft and military

personnel. That Bean Counter was put back in his box for a few more years. It

was also very relevant in the early days of trying for funding from the Scottish

Government when I was Chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue. We had to

explain to the First Minister that Teams puts a huge amount of hours in on

training, courses and looking after equipment apart from attending incidents.

These are a few points from my talk!

 

Information

The information gained from a few years incidents can be so helpful to teams. It

can help show the areas in which Team Training should go. If your Team mainly

does Lowland Urban searches should you spend do much time and money on

expensive equipment on Technical gear? Maybe look more into Search planning

and training? Or if you carry out a lot searches in areas of swift water should the

training be increased in this area? Agree fully on this one. A rich profile of what a

team does and where it does it can help inform not only training (what and

where) but also what kinds of equipment to purchase. It’s all about matching

what the team does in theory to what it actually does in practice. I suspect that

in many cases this is not the case.

Also, an accurate and up-to-date picture about what happens across Scotland

can help advise the Press, Government and safety organisations such as the

MCofS on what aspects to focus on, and also avoid these organisations passing on year after year inaccurate myths (e.g. all mountaineers are ill equipped and

Inexperienced numpties hell bent on jumping off cliffs!)

 

Searches

Team areas will have accident hotspots that are current today it may be

worth having a look back and see if any changes are relevant? Casualties

do get found in areas that were hot spots in the past. At times many of the

current team may have limited knowledge of this historical fact as elder

Team member’s leave and their knowledge could be lost forever? Agree

fully. A recent Professor of IT is quoted as saying “ “The experiences of our

past are still the best road map to our future”. You are correct that hot

spots of the past disappear and new ones appear. Its only we you carry out

an objective analysis that trends like this appear. This can help a present

team to find out more about the new hot spots (where are they, how do you

gain access, what are the technical challenges, and so on). Far better to be

Pre-warned than be caught out on a rescue!

 

Medical

 

Look at the injuries your team deals with make priorities in these areas that are

you need to. If you deal with 80% ankle lower limbs make sure all can treat and

the equipment is suitable. How many stretcher carries do you do how often do

you practice? It is easy to get side tracked? Fully agree. No point in spending

£1000s on fancy kit to deal with a broken femur when your team has never ever

had such an injury! Also, if a team mainly deals with searches with no injured

people then why train numerous members to become EMTs etc, when the money

and time would be better spent on training up people to become better at

searching and search management.

 

Funding

The government are interested in Stats – man/ women hours so important. What

about the hours on training and sorting gear and exercises they are never

submitted in the figures only callout hours. What about travel to and from a callout,

sorting out gear, standby hours etc. “Bean Counters” only want numbers but

that is how it works . It is really worth working out how many hours the team

spends training/ courses and kit maintenance? It will amaze you! When you add

up all the hours carried out by every team across a full year it sums to around

40,000 hours (give or take). This translates into many, many full time police

Officers, which goes to show not only what a comprehensive job we do, but also

and how much money is saved to the public purse.

 

Safety/Research

 

The common causes of accidents in your area maybe worth alerting climbers and

walkers to current trends in your area. Is safety not a Mountain Rescue Concern?

The SMR/MRCofS is the organisation in the BEST POSSIBLE position to advise

everyone – Press, Government, Course Providers, Governing bodies, etc, what

goes wrong. It has a moral obligation to publish its annual statistics far and wide

and in a timely manner – not two years late! Also, as a government funded

Organisation, should it have a legal responsibility to do this too? Some  of he recent accidents on Ben Nevis (winter 2015) have been in the same area and involve walkers ? Why is this trend happening?

 

Historical

So many casualties will come back many years later to find out what happened

to them or a loved one. It is good to have some back ground on the incident and

what happened. Many things re –occur on a regular cycle. You and I can recount

numerous instances where family members have come back to us for

information about someone in the family who died (a grid reference, more detail,

who assisted etc.) and SMR has a moral responsibility to help these people by

providing relevant information.

 

Stats are so important

 

The world has changed nowadays with the Data Protection Act and personal

privacy, with new regulations to ensure that this is adhered to. We do not need to

name any casualties but age and other factors are very relevant. With one Police

Force I was assured that we would have current and accurate stats that we can

use for the next generations to learn from, I wonder how far we are from this now

the Single Police force is up and running. I feel we owe it to John Hinde, Ben

Humble and all the other Statistics Officers who maintained and published

accurate and up-to-date records to tackle this problem before it is too late.

Is it only me that sees this as a problem?

 

Any comments welcome?

Worth noting

Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) is very open about what it does and you can download annual figures from as far back as 1980 right through to 2013.

Go to – http://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/information-centre/incident-statistics

 

Irish MR is not quite as up to date but still open about publishing its annual stats.  Go to –

http://www.mountainrescue.ie/TeamInformation

 

Do we seem to be lagging behind?

Thanks to Bob Sharp for his input and Ben Humble and John Hinde for the inspiration!

 

 

A comment 0f Congratulations on a very forceful and heartfelt defence of management information in mountain rescue.

All the points you make are valid, both north and south of the border as well as across the Irish Sea. For the last two decades I have been trying to instil these same points into the English and Welsh MRTs. I believe progress has been made but I am still not satisfied that the MREW figures are complete. For what it is worth, my sympathy goes out to all the statisticians who have followed John Hinde; not only a difficult act to follow but one made harder by poor co-operation from teams.

The production of management information is vital for the development of mountain safety and rescue. This point is well-made by Heavy. All the aspects covered by the article are essential if mountain rescue is to develop in a way that reflects changes in society. Without this steady flow of information, it is likely that lessons will be overlooked, will not be learned or quickly be forgotten.

Please consider publishing your article further afield. It might even blow some of the blinkers away.

Ged Feeney
Statistics Officer – Mountain Rescue (England & Wales)

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, medical, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SAR, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Stats in Mountain Rescue – why bother ?

  1. John Armstrong says:

    Well written Heavy. I think we are way behind with these things. When I was training officer / coll-out organizer for SARDA Scotland , I had all training and calouts log down , hours , where , and what. It took me a long time to get it through to handlers that it was good for past and the future.
    Hope you are keeping a bit better . all the best and keep blogging

  2. John Chapman says:

    Good comprehensive article. If you do not spend time in recording and analysis, then how can you justify future planning? Must be based on facts and then you budget, train etc for the real world.

  3. Ian Rideout says:

    Good data on searches and rescues is also essential for continuing to develop the information on missing person behaviours, identifying common factors and determining what may be new trends.
    It is essential that we have up to date missing person behaviour for Scotland as well as the rest of the UK to continue to inform the great (and often unrecognised) work that Graham Gibb has done both when he was with Grampian Police and subsequently. It seems to me that Police Scotland must also have a role in the collation of stats relating to searches and rescues?

  4. Ged Feeney says:

    Congratulations on a very forceful and heartfelt defense of management information in mountain rescue.

    All the points you make are valid, both north and south of the border as well as across the Irish Sea. For the last two decades I have been trying to instill these same points into the English and Welsh MRTs. I believe progress has been made but I am still not satisfied that the MREW figures are complete. For what it is worth, my sympathy goes out to all the statisticians who have followed John Hinde; not only a difficult act to follow but one made harder by poor co-operation from teams.

    The production of management information is vital for the development of mountain safety and rescue. This point is well-made by Heavy. All the aspects covered by the article are essential if mountain rescue is to develop in a way that reflects changes in society. Without this steady flow of information, it is likely that lessons will be overlooked, will not be learned or quickly be forgotten.

    Please consider publishing your article further afield. It might even blow some of the blinkers away.

    Ged Feeney
    Statistics Officer – Mountain Rescue (England & Wales)

  5. Surely if all calls are now routed through Police Scotland then they should have a call logging system that can use to make gathering stats that bit easier? If they’re logging things accurately then it should be a matter of minutes to pull off the relevant reports if their software is even half decent. I do something similar for my own employers on a daily basis. Hmmm…. mebbe it’s time to polish off the CV 🙂

  6. Donald Watt says:

    Heavy I used to compile stats for Lochaber, breaking down the type of fallout we got was useful in deciding what kind of training an kit we needed. I agree stats can seem boring but are vital part of MR. My first involvement of rescue was with the old Arrochar when Ben Humble was in charge an unforgettable character and a fount of knowledge, a privilege to have known him.

  7. Nahuel says:

    Awesome article man! but I have a question: Is there any international committee that provides worldwide stats about this? I am currently designing new equipment for mountain and wild rescue teams and I can’t find good stats information. Thanks in advance!

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