Donegal Mountain Rescue - reaching the most remote places
by Matt Britton
Over the last number of weeks the Arctic conditions have placed a major strain on many organisations who battle almost on a daily basis to ensure that essential services are provided to people who find themselves vulnerable in many situations.
There are many unsung heroes throughout the county that many of us take for granted among them the council workers who struggle to keep the roads open and the emergency services who often put their own lives in danger to ensure somebody else's safety.
For many years the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team (DMRT) have been rescuing and assisting people who have strayed into trouble in wild and remote areas where in the past the only hope of assistance or rescue would have rested with the local guard or whatever hill farmers could be rounded up at short notice.
Today the DMRT has developed its skills and experience and the number of incidents that it deals with has increased considerably, Since the present "Big Chill" began in late November, this voluntary organisation has answered over 30 call outs compared to a total of 50 for the entire year in 2009.
In light of the present Arctic conditions the Donegal Democrat spoke to Catriona Strain, an active member of the DMRT, and PRO of the organisation.
Catriona said, "It is now 25 years since the first steps were taken to establish our team and we know have 27 members who live across the county and essentially are on call 24/7.
"We have five response vehicles positioned strategically to ensure quick, effective responses to incidents. We have seen this organisation move forward from humble beginnings and are now looking forward to shaping our future in maintaining and enhancing an effective rescue service in the county."
Strain said that many members of the public had a mistaken view of the DMRT and associated them purely with people stranded up hills or on the sides of mountains.
"It is much more than that," she said, "on an almost daily basis we face a variety of challenges which I must confess makes the job much more interesting.
"The last month with the existing weather conditions has seen us working around the clock which leaves very little time for socialising and Christmas parties for our members - they are on call 24/7 and often have to leave social functions and family get-togethers to go to someone's assistance. It is nearly a full time job.
"We work very closely with the HSE in all sorts of roles - collecting prescriptions, delivering drugs and vital medication - our staff are even trained in the delivery of infants even though we have not been asked to do so this year to date.
"We have also actually had to bring medical staff - nurses and even doctors to some patients who live in remote places and have been snowed-in. As a result of some of these visits we have had to bring some of these patients to either the A&E departments or nursing homes as they would not be able to survive alone in such a harsh climate.
"Donegal is an extremely large county and many of the areas that we frequent are very sparsely populated - some people might only meet and talk with their neighbours when they get into the towns. There are a lot of isolated and lonely people out there and as a community we should look out for them and try to pay them a visit.
"Essentially our vehicles are equipped to reach places that others like ambulances or Garda cars may not be able to reach."
Catriona added, "Many people do not like to ask for help - especially the older generation. They are a proud generation and cling to their independence. They do not want to feel that they are putting people out of their way but I would appeal to them, their family and neighbours to contact us no matter how small they might feel the problem is.
"It is a totally voluntary organisation with only limited public funding we raise most of the €65K in fund raising events - we can do with all the help we get.
"On a final note I would ask people that no matter how small they feel their problem may be to contact us if they feel they may be in danger. Some people might think that they might be creating an unnecessary fuss - my response to this is "Let us be the judges - we are here to help when others may not be able to."
Bradas McDyer of the Donegal Mountain Rescue. The DMRT have been inundated with calls for assistance in the icy weather. 2312MVB2 DMRT