‘People can’t believe we are not paid’
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.‘