Every time a hiker is lost in the mountains you will no doubt picture images of the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team (DMRT) jumping into action - a helicopter buzzing overhead or scores of people combing the Bluestacks or Derryveagh mountains in search of clues.
This brief bit of insight into the world of search and rescue teams is about all the general public ever sees. The team has featured much in the news in recent weeks with the massive search in South West Donegal for missing man David Maguire. In reality, mountain rescue goes way beyond these glimpses in the media: it’s an extensive emergency service performed by highly trained specialist volunteers.
DMRT are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year as a voluntary emergency response team providing search and rescue in extreme terrain and mountain conditions throughout the entire county, and indeed along our many coastal walks. The goal is to locate, stabilize and extract individuals in distress. That can mean a hiker on the side of a mountain, a missing child, an emergency situation that demands medical attention, or just someone stranded in the snow.
Mountain rescue is a rich cauldron of activities encompassing specialised training, rescue missions, fundraising, mundane committee duties and even the odd TV appearances for rescue programmes or walking documentaries. It’s usually wet, sometimes dry, often a muscle stretcher, quite exhilarating, sometimes tiring but always lively and fulfilling.
More than anything else, it is deeply rewarding when the mission is over and the casualty is safely recovered and reunited with his or her friends or family. On those occasion,s the ensuing smiles and tears are what makes it all so very worthwhile to be an Active Responder with Donegal Mountain Rescue Team.
Off the hills 2014 was particularly hectic for DMRT, said team PRO, Joseph Brennan. “Too often the public only see the apparent glamour of mountain rescue. The sirens, the flashing blues, the dramatic helicopter extractions and the tearful reunions but, in the end, that perhaps only accounts for twenty per cent of the team’s efforts. The other eighty per cent involves a whole lot of behind the scenes drudgery to keep the show on the road. Or perhaps getting the team off the road with proper equipment and transport!
In that way 2014, was particularly hectic. One of the primary aims of 2014 was a thorough renewal of dated equipment and gear which involved a mountain of fundraising. One of the aged Jeeps was replaced (with an 07 newbie!) and the team hope to replace a second this year, hopefully with the assistance of a government sponsored scheme with Mountain Rescue Ireland.”
Looking forward to the year ahead, Mr Brennan said the team “find themselves in a good place” having gone through and passed a rigorous IMRA (Irish Mountain Rescue Association) external accreditation by assessors drawn from Scottish and Galway mountain rescue teams last May.
Now, one of the key goals for 2015 will be the recruitment of a new batch of volunteers to reinvigorate the team.
This is badly needed due to the ongoing increase in the number of callouts and current gaps in team member dispersal.
The team is seeking enthusiastic individuals interested in working as part of the team to achieve high standards of casualty care in Donegal’s mountains. Ideal candidates will have a strong interest in mountaineering activities, a high level of commitment, be reasonably fit, possess some hill walking/climbing experience, have some navigation and hill skills, as well as a commitment to participating in regular team training and callouts.
Recruitment to the emergency response team is open to people over 18 years of age living within one hour of the county’s mountainous areas.
At the moment the team would have a particular shortage of volunteers in South West Donegal, at a time when the Wild Atlantic Way is pushing ever larger numbers of visitors and walkers through the Glenties / Ardara area to Sliabh Liag and Glencolumkille.
It takes approximately one to two years to progress from being a probationary member to qualifying as a full operational member. The Donegal Mountain Rescue training programme covers four core areas namely, mountain operations, search and rescue operations, casualty care, and operations co-ordination.
DMRT is also interested in hearing from members of the public who may be interested in assisting them with the various other duties involved in running a voluntary mountain emergency response team, including organising fundraising days and events, general administration, vehicle maintenance etc.
For an application pack, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date for receipt of applications is Friday, February 20.
For more information, see www.facebook.com/DonegalMRT or www.donegalmrt.ie.