9th July 2021

Accidents, as they say, happen. It’s a risk we all accept when we go outdoors. That risk can even add to the enjoyment of some activities for some people. But when things go wrong it’s important to be prepared. Changing gears mentally from ‘having fun’ to ‘somebody needs help urgently’ can be jarring if you haven’t thought about it before.

Martin McMullan from Mourne Mountain Rescue (and Life Adventure Centre) shared his advice with us. Most people will know that the Mourne Mountain Rescue team are the elite emergency service called upon if someone should get into difficulty in the Mourne mountains. Since lockdown, theirs callouts have grown significantly so Martin was happy to share some advice, using his “ASSIST” model and which outdoor recreationalists should consider before heading out.

A – Access – Do you have a route map? Are you familiar with your intended route? Can you accurately pin point your location at any given time? If necessary do you have an emergency escape route(s) and should the need arise, how will Emergency Services reach you?

S – Signal – Do you have a phone? Do you have the necessary contact numbers ? Will there be network coverage, and if not, what is your back up plan? Do you carry a whistle, torch, PLB (Personal Locating Beacon) or strobe? Have you left an ‘ALERT’ plan with a friend? (Actions / Liaisons / Emergency / Route / Time)

S – Story – What to say when you need to call for help – Who are you? Who are you with? Where are you? What have you been doing? What has happened? What resources do you have? What actions have you taken? If not obvious, why exactly are you calling for help / exactly what assistance do you require? All key pieces of information necessary for an appropriate Emergency Services response.

I – Injuries – Is someone injured? Who is injured? How did they injure themselves? What are their signs and symptoms? What first aid do you carry? What treatment can you provide? Don’t forget, ‘I’ can equally apply to ‘Illness’. Even if you do decide to call teh Emergency Services, remote responses take time and so your immediate input and/or hat of others could well prove critical.

S – Shelter – Do you carry sufficient clothing / shelter to protect all those involved? Exposure is a real risk, particularly for but not limited to an injured party. Even in our summer months, weather can be challenging and particularly for someone who has suffered an injury or taken ill. In particular, see ‘T’ below.

T – Time – Dealing with incidents on trails takes time, whether self-assisting or receiving assistance from others or the Emergency Services, even if you’ve done everything correct and provided all the essential information. Are you prepared for a delay / wait of not just minutes but hours? See ‘S’ above.

One of the most important things Martin wanted people to take away was the need to be as self-sufficient as possible and to understand the benefit of community reliance, which can often be a more efficient response for minor incidents or that critical stop gap while awaiting the Emergency Services. That said, if in doubt for any level of incident, don’t delay calling, even if it’s for initial advice – all the Emergency Services would rather have an early call and subsequently not be needed as opposed to the alternative. Finally, mobile phones can prove invaluable when on the trails, particularly in emergency situations, however they’re in no way a substitute for careful planning, being prepared and ultimately staying safe.