This weekend I attended the Mountain Rescue England & Wales National Water Conference to present about the value of satnav where water is a critical element of the mission.
The risks that any body of water poses to MR Responders is considerable, from a bank side search along a seemingly quiet river bank to the devastating recent floods in Cumbria, for the reasons that the apparel and heavy rucksacks responders carry are not conducive with ‘floating’ (the opposite of drowning to me) if an accident occurs and because people join MR to help save others and when casualties have been found trapped in water the natural response of the responder is to try and help.
Consequently safety in waterside search and rescue is a key focus for all teams and five years ago Ewan Thomas was appointed by the national committee as Water Officer – and like most MR roles this is an unpaid voluntary one: all credit to Ewan for gigantean efforts in developing formal water training and systematic waterside search practice for MR. In defining not only how to search but also exactly what protective equipment should be worn in addition to educating responders how to identify and minimise the risk of water is a major advance in the continuing service provided for the public by MR.
To this end the conference was excellent and all credit to the organisers chaired by the ever enthusiastic and professional Andy Lee of Edale MRT. It achieved ALL the objectives of a good conference being educational, inspiring and thought provoking, to over 100 delegates from across England and Wales.
Of all the varied and interesting aspects of my job, meeting and working with volunteer SAR responders is the most rewarding being both a privilege and inspiring.