At some point in our lives, we will all have to dial the emergency services, whether it be that you come across another person that needs assistance or you have an accident in your group. Walking in the hills and mountains means you won’t be within 10 minutes of an ambulance and you need to assess the situation and possibly have to keep the situation under control for hours until help arrives. It is vitally important and frankly lifesaving to know what to do in an emergency situation, We will go through what you should do in such an emergency, imagining that you are out in the mountains away from any immediate help and one or more of your group have been injured.

Always check for any specific numbers or procedures you should follow for which country you are in.

The first thing to do in any emergency situation is to stay calm and assess the situation. It is impossible to truly know how we will react to an emergency until it happens to you so first of all take a breath, stay calm and then start the process of dealing with the situation.

Assess the Danger. Next, you need to make sure that you and anyone else in the group stay safe regardless of any injured parties. So if there was a rockfall that hit someone and injured them, if you then just ran out and tried to help then there may still be rocks coming down that could injure you and render you useless to help the original person. So take a step back, assess the danger and think about keeping you and the rest of the group out of harms way.

  • What caused the injury?
  • Is it still happening?
  • Is it likely to happen again?
  • Where can you go to get out of danger?
  • What can be done to prevent anyone else getting hurt

Tend to the Injured Person. Once you have assessed the danger and concluded it is safe to go and help the injured person. Check for the basics so remember RABC:

  • Response – can they respond? are they unconscious?
  • Airway – is their airway clear?
  • Breathing – are they breathing?
  • Circulation – have they got the blood circulating round the body?

This is your primary survey to give you an initial idea of the critical bodily functions. Ask or check them for any injuries(blood loss or broken limbs etc..). If you don’t know much about First aid or need a refresher then check out our online first aid course to learn more.

Once you have made your initial assessment of the injured person(s) you need to make a call on what to do next so consider your options:

  • How far is it to safety?
  • Can the casualty move?
  • What is the terrain like?
  • Can you carry the casualty?
  • Will the injuries be made worse by moving?
  • Is it safe where you are?

If you decide you need help then you need to call the emergency services and give them as much detail as you can about the situation so before you call them to try to have written down all the important information you need:

  • Where are you? – work out your exact location, this could be a grid reference, coordinates or any other method of locating someone, Double check it!
  • About the Incident – what happened? What time? How many injured?
  • About your group? –  how many people are in the group? Names, phone numbers and as much detail on the condition of casualties as you can.
  • Conditions – What equipment do you have?(tent, food, water etc,) Weather conditions like visibility.
  • Location of call – Your location of calling if different from accident site

Now we have all the information we need to be written down you are ready to contact the emergency services.

Try to conserve battery power on your phones, you never know how long you will be waiting for help to arrive so keep an eye on your battery level, make sure you hand all available contact details to the emergency services so that if your main phone dies then they can contact you via another number. It is sensible to turn any spare phones off until they are needed, so give the number, turn them off and keep them in a pocket or somewhere else as warm and dry as possible. If you do not have much battery to start with or don’t have any spare phones with battery then you should tell this to the emergency services and you will be able to arrange something with them, for instance, they will call you only on each hour so you can turn your phone off for the most part and then turn it on at five to the hour and wait for a call, then turn it off again after till the next hour.

who you gonna call

Unfortunately, Ghostbusters won’t be much help at this point so before you set out on the walk you hopefully will have found out the number for the emergency services wherever you are in the world. So in the UK you would call 999 and ask for police and mountain rescue, this will put you through to the right division to get help to you as quick as possible.

When calling the emergency services you should turn you back to the wind or find a bit of shelter to make it easier to hear and be heard by the call centre. Dial through and wait for 1 minute to connect, if the call fails because of poor signal then it may be that something as simple as your head is preventing you from getting enough signal to make the call, so turn around 180° and try again to connect for 1 minute. If this still fails then you may need to go and find some signal at a different location.

If you have to separate from the group to get help or phone the emergency services then you should always try and leave at least one person with the injured casualties and have at least one person to go with you to get to higher ground to find a better signal. Let the group know exactly where you plan to go to make the call, make a plan on when you expect to be back if the call does or doesn’t connect.

A number you should remember from this point on and for the rest of your life is 112. 112 is a special number used in 82 countries around the world and will automatically direct your call to the emergency services in that country. The advantages of this number are:

  • It is a special type of call that tries everything to connect the call
  • If it cannot find a signal then it will try every different network operator in the area to get a signal from one of the network providers.
  • It can bypass any pin or security on a phone so if you do not have access to the phone you will be able to call this number still
  • You do not need credit or minutes on your contract to make the call
  • On some phones, you can even call it without a sim card

112 is the best number you can try if you need to get assistance as it has a much greater chance of connecting the call.

If you still can’t get through then you can try texting. Texts use a different bandwidth to calls and they require less signal to get sent through so even if you send a text and it doesn’t send, then your phone should keep trying and with a bit of luck, it will send if you get just enough signal. In the UK we have a service where you can text 999, you have to pre-register for the service but it is very simple and just requires you text ‘register’ to 999, For more check out register for 999.
If you do not have access to this service then you can also text a friend, send them all the details you would tell the emergency services including your phone numbers and get them to call the emergency services for you.

If you still cannot get through then you may have to walk to get help, just like going to find a signal you should always try and leave someone with the casualty and have at least two people go and get help. Make the location of the injured party easy to see and work out the best route to finding help either by going to a house or road or anything where you might be able to find some civilisation to assist you.

The Emergency Whistle is an old school but highly useful tool to get help, experienced people in the mountains should know what the signal is for help which is SIX BLASTS ON THE WHISTLE or SIX TORCH FLASHES repeated every minute. In good conditions, a whistle can be heard and a torch can be seen for miles around so there is a chance someone might be able to hear/see you and come to help. Don’t forget the simple things!

Always Let someone else know where you are going. Whether you are on your own or in a group you should always let someone you trust know where you are going and what time you should be back, keep in contact with them if there are any changes to your plan so that if anything were to happen they can act and get help for you. You should tell them:

  • Your planned route
  • When you expect to get back
  • What time to call for help if you aren’t back
  • Details and phone numbers of the group

If you give them this information then if all else fails and you cannot get help then your emergency contact should alert the emergency services and get the search underway.

You should now have a good understanding of the steps you can take to deal with an emergency. We have gone through many different options on how to get assistance and one of them could save your or someone else’s life one day so make sure you understand and remember what to do.

  • Stay calm
  • Check for danger
  • Assess the situation and injuries
  • If needed, Phone emergency services
  • If that doesn’t work, text
  • Go get help
  • Wait for assistance

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