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Rescue at home and abroad

In Britain most specialist rescue services in the hills and mountains (and also in many lowland areas) are in the hands of volunteers. The local teams operate on an independent basis but are usually affiliated to a national organisation and sometimes to an association of teams in their area. In the case of Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue the team is a member of Mountain Rescue England and Wales and also of LDSAMRA - the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association.

RAF helicopterThanks to the teams being entirely voluntary organisations, search and rescue within Britain is free. You won't be charged for being rescued - even if the operation calls for an airlift by helicopter. Helicopters are provided in daytime by air ambulances or at any time of day or night by the RAF's Search and Rescue service.

If you are walking in the hills and mountains abroad, however, the situation can be entirely different. You are very likely to be charged for a helicopter evacuation and quite possibly for other modes of rescue. You should check your insurance cover carefully to make sure that you can reclaim the cost. Many standard travel insurance policies cover you for walking up to a certain altitude (for instance up to 2000m), a height that can be very easily exceeded. Specialist policies are provided by a number of brokers and also through clubs like the British Mountaineering Club and the Austrian Alpine Club (the latter having a long-lasting connection with British walkers and climbers).

Although rescue in the British hills is free it's worth bearing in mind the following:

  • Rescue teams are under no obligation to try to rescue you; they will always put the safety of their own members first.
  • The teams operate at the request of the police, so you won't be calling them direct. They are simply there to help the police and ambulance services do their job.
  • Teams need to have their equipment and medical supplies paid for through contributions from members of the public; if you want them to continue to be trained and ready to come to your help, don't forget to make the occasional donation!

Useful publications

Call Out Mountain Rescue?: A Pocket Guide to Safety on the Hill is an official publication of Mountain Rescue England & Wales. As well as having useful information on hill safety there is interesting background history on the formation of the mountain rescue teams. It is a handy little booklet in a sturdy metal ringbound format that will not fall apart easily if you carry it around in your sack. Profits from its sale go to Mountain Rescue.

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