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Grid refs and Emergency Services

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I hope this is the correct place to post this.

My main sport is canoeing/kayaking and this discussion came up with some fellow paddlers.  However, I am sure that it is of interest to others and I am hoping that someone will have an answer - especially those involved in lowland SAR.

Following an incident the emergency services were called.  When asked for a location they were pressed hard for a postcode.  The position was accurately known by both OS NGR and Lat/long from a GPS unit.  Also the number of miles  from the nearest town and named featured on a map.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the only position indicator of any immediate use was the postcode.   Eventually the casualty was taken to a nearby road and got off to hospital - all ended OK.

I had a quick email discussion with the local emergency control room and it was confirmed that a postcode was the most useful locator.  The OS grid ref was of no use as they don't have access to OS mapping - it costs!!!  The lat/long may be of use but he didn't know which method of reporting was most useful to them (d:m:s, d:m.mmm or d.ddddd).

I imagine that in real hill country SAR/emergency services would be able to deal with any of these, as would an air ambulance - but if you need an ambulance on a road or river away from a town what is the preferred method of location?  What do lowland SAR do?


Hugh Westacott:
Welcome to this forum, Graham!

Last June, the Ramblers launched a campaign to persuade the ambulance service to accept grid references for the location of incidents and supported their came with a mass of evidence (see attached file).

I'm under the impression that the arguments have been accepted by the ambulance service but I'm not sure whether the necessary arrangements have yet been implemented.


Hugh Westacott:

I've done some more research and discovered an article in the current 'Walk', the Ramblers' magazine. It contains the following statement:
' a meeting with the Ramblers' Karen Inkster, Steve West [Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives]...has agreed to raise the issue nationally with the NHS Ambulance Director of Operations and to liaise with the national software suppliers' forum to ensure that all the [four] different systems can use the National Grid references... we expect to have a follow-up meeting in about a year's time...'


This is a real eye opener, had no idea the ambulance service was unable to use the OS grid reference system. Not just that but now it looks like the usual dithering whilst someone decides whether this is feasible etc. Meanwhile the risk being obvious is bound to cost someone dearly at some point. Something else now to consider whilst out in the fields.

And, for someone outside of the UK, forced to give a postal code, that would be the end of me. How is a postal code somewhere in the mountains or moors useful, do not understand.


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