‘Peo­ple can’t be­lieve we are not paid’

Bray People - - News -

ARK­LOW woman Ann Fitz­patrick who is PRO of the Glen of Imaal Moun­tain Res­cue said that peo­ple are con­stantly amazed that peo­ple in­volved in moun­tain res­cues don’t get paid. ‘Peo­ple can’t be­lieve we are not paid. I think we are the only emer­gency ser­vice that is 100 per cent vol­un­tary and there is a huge per­sonal and fi­nan­cial cost.

‘There is a huge draw on peo­ple’s time be­tween res­cues and train­ing’, she said. Ann who works as a ranger with the Ir­ish Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice said that her em­ploy­ers are very un­der­stand­ing when she is called out to a res­cue and said all those in­volved with the Glen of Imaal team are Wick­low based and by and large em­ploy­ers are very sup­port­ive.

Pat Do­ran and Keith McDon­nell are ex­pe­ri­ence climbers and Ann said that peo­ple tend to crit­i­cise those res­cued but she said that the only mis­take the men made was set­ting off without a full sur­vival kit. ‘They weren’t id­iots. They are climbers and the only mis­take they made was not bring­ing a full sur­vival kit. They wanted to get to the top in a light Alpine fash­ion but they are both com­pe­tent moun­taineers. They made very sen­si­ble choices af­ter they lost their map stay­ing where they had strong sig­nal.’

Ann said that the mem­bers are al­ways on call there are cer­tain peak times when res­cues are most likely to hap­pen. ‘You can’t live your life wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen. It’s re­ally hit and miss. You don’t know when a call will come. There are cer­tain times of the year when you are more likely to be called out. Most calls don’t hap­pen in the dark ei­ther and when they do they are gen­er­ally pro­longed res­cues re­quir­ing two teams so if, for ex­am­ple, you can’t go with the first team you can go with the sec­ond.’

Per­son­ally be­ing part of any So what spurs on res­cuers in bit­ing cold and heavy winds?

Paul Gil­bert, PRO with Dublin Wick­low Moun­tain Res­cue Team, says res­cuers are mo­ti­vated by find­ing those lost and suf­fer­ing.

‘Peo­ple who are part of moun­tain res­cue teams are mo­ti­vated by some­thing other than a de­sire to spend time on the moun­tain. They re­alise that not ev­ery call is go­ing to be life or death. But when the sit­u­a­tion is se­ri­ous enough we fo­cus on the price that some­one will have to pay if we don’t fol­low through with a res­cue. Know­ing that some­one is out there suf­fer­ing is what moun­tain res­cue is very de­mand­ing. ‘There is a high de­mand on you per­son­ally and we al­ways stress that to new mem­bers. We train ev­ery Wed­nes­day and one week­end a month in ad­di­tion to all the res­cues.

‘There is also spe­cial­ist train­ing, meet­ings and fundrais­ing. It can take over your life and it can be dif­fi­cult es­pe­cially for peo­ple with young fam­i­lies.’

Ann’s mother is al­ways wor­ry­ing about her daugh­ter’s safety dur­ing any res­cue too. ‘She al­ways fol­lows the news dur­ing a res­cue be­cause there is the el­e­ment of risk go­ing into any res­cue. In the sim­plest of things any­thing can hap­pen. Last week one of our mem­bers in­jured his knee and last week dur­ing a res­cue in the Sally Gap an­other mem­ber split open his thumb but thank­fully it wasn’t se­ri­ous.’ mo­ti­vates us.’

Ob­vi­ously while last week was a suc­cess­ful res­cue not all res­cues end so well. ‘Ev­ery time we go out we go out with the ex­pec­ta­tion of a pos­i­tive re­sult. In some in­stances you have a fa­tal­ity but it is still a pos­i­tive re­sult be­cause you can bring a sense of clo­sure to their loved ones so they can be­gin the griev­ing process that they oth­er­wise can’t start in earnest.

‘Our work does in­volve a cer­tain amount of fatal­i­ties but we don’t lose sight of the fact that it is not just one per­son on the hill we are go­ing out for but for their fam­i­lies too.’

Be­ing on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is de­mand­ing per­son­ally. Those in­volved can be called into action at any time but you have the choice to re­spond or not.‘ Mem­bers de­cide their level of com­mit­ment. If some­one was out for din­ner and the pager went off they don’t have to re­spond. It is down to the in­di­vid­ual,’ says Paul Gil­bert of DWMRT.

An im­promptu so­cial life, some­thing most peo­ple take for granted, is not some­thing a mem­ber of the DWMRT can en­joy.

ABOVE AND BE­LOW - Mem­bers of the Glen of Imall and Dublin/Wick­low Moun­tain Res­cue teams.

‘It is a case of plan­ning your so­cial life care­fully. There are very few of the team who would go out for Sun­day lunch and have a glass of wine be­cause chances are, more of­ten than not, that’s when you will be called out.’

Paul him­self rarely drinks and only en­joys a few beers when away on hol­i­day, when he knows there is no way he can re­spond to a call even if one comes in.‘It’s not a case that it kills your so­cial life but it can be de­mand­ing on your per­sonal life, on re­la­tion­ships and friend­ships.‘

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