Cue the music ….
“Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the …” hold on a minute, ain’t that a tad sexist these days … why can only men be heroes ??
Anyway, moving on quickly. Picture the scene; you’re on holiday at the beach with your partner and kids, when suddenly you become aware of a commotion a few hundred metres off shore. Along with half the rest of the beachgoers, you jump up and start looking out into the now choppy waves and can see two youngish kids on an inflatable crocodile, being pulled out to sea by the current.
What do you do ??
Even if you were a strong swimmer, it would be far too far to swim out – you would likely come down with exhaustion or hypothermia before you got half way there and end up dead yourself.
No, what you do is call 999 and ask for the Coastguard who’ll more than likely page the nearest RNLI Lifeboat. In a remarkably short space of time, around the bay you will see a blaze of orange as a dedicated crew of seafaring guys and girls charge to the rescue and return the children (and their crocodile) to terra firma..
As a matter of course, the Coastguard will contact the police and couple of bobbies may be despatched as well, but what they won’t be doing is going into the water.
There’s absolutely no point or use in another dead hero. Police officers are neither trained nor equipped for dealing with such an emergency. That’s why we have specialist rescue services like the Lifeboats.
No, what the police will be there to do is ‘manage the incident’ – quite how they are expected to do that from a beach several hundred metres and a few million gallons of salty water away is beyond me but hey, I don’t make the rules ! You can bet though, that the officer that doesn’t submit the necessary ‘child in danger’ incident report will be licking the Super’s boots clean for the next month and a half.
Now, imagine you are walking up a hill, a really big hill, nay a mountain. I do a lot of hill and mountain walking myself, especially in the Lake District (other mountain ranges available at no extra cost).
If you see me, don’t forget to wave !!
Anyway, three quarters of the way up this mountain, in a particularly inaccessible area; you know, the sort of place you’ve just spent an hour doing a vertical ascent followed by a grade one scramble and shimmied across the worlds narrowest ledge to get to, you happen upon 2 or 3 people in a total state of panic.
One of their group is lying on the ground, writhing around in absolute agony. The party quickly tell you the casualty has fallen a good 50 – 60 metres down the rockface, but luckily, some of the regions finest granite had stopped their descent, aided admirably by the casualty’s own head which had operated as a sort of dampener brake.
You can just about remember the basics of that first aid refresher you did nine months ago, although most of the flashbacks relate to practising bandage wrapping by tying the most senior ranking officer present on the course to the nearest chair, radiator or light fitting you can find, all in the name of team morale boosting of course !
This is serious though. Common sense kicks in and you can manage the basics to keep the injured party safe, warm and try to prevent their condition getting any worse. You need help. And fast !
What do you do ? Call 999 for the police of course.
What happens next is not a Land Rover full of appropriately trained bobbies coming to the rescue. No, what the police control room does is contact the nearest Mountain Rescue Team who, before you know it, will be on their way with all the kit and experience needed to extract an injured person for the most impossible to reach places, and get them to help just as fast as they can.
I’ve been around this situation and believe me, the sound of an approaching diesel Land Rover engine or the bark of an over excited rescue border collie charging towards you leading a team of Orange Knights is the best feeling in the world !
Before you know it, a team of fully trained, often medically qualified professionals will have taken over and begun the process of removing the casualty from the mountain side to a place where either a rescue helicopter of land ambulance can take over and head for the nearest A&E.
The police will most probably turn out as well, but their role will most likely be to ‘oversee’ the ongoing rescue and relay ‘important’ information back to a Duty Officer clutching his pension countdown statement sat in a comfy chair in a nice office somewhere a long, long way away and many degrees warmer and drier than where you find yourself at this moment..
And if that wasn’t all enough action for one day, when you and your family get back down off the mountain, there’s a blizzard. Within half an hour there’s so much snow you can’t see 10 feet in front of the car. it’s a white out. There’s nothing you can do but sit and wait with all the other drivers, hoping it will go away …. but it doesn’t.
After several hours you all realise you are stranded on the road. No way out. The road doesn’t exist any more. The landscape is just one big fluffy white cushion.
You aren’t anywhere near prepared for this. There’s no food or water supplies in your car, you only have the clothes on your back and slightly les than a quarter tank of fuel left to run the engine and keep everybody warm.
It’s time to call for help.
What you do is call 999 and speak to the police control room operator. What they do next is call out the nearest search and rescue team; a bunch of highly trained professionals, experienced in handling crises just like this and with the right equipment to deal with any scenario.
Again, the police will most likely be deployed, but in reality their role will be a minor one.
The point I’m making here is that in the UK, we are fortunate to have some very professional, very well trained, very well equipped, very enthusiastic mountain, cave, lowland and sea rescue personnel ….. and they are all volunteers !! … Charities !! … even our air ambulances, although crewed by paid staff, are funded and operated by charitable donations.
We all, yes you and I as well, pay a great deal of money to the Government every year through direct and indirect taxation, partly to fund our 999 emergency services, but when the going gets tough, do the tough get going ? No, they pick up the phone and call on the assistance of Geoff the plumber and Nigel the ex army guy.
Now that’s in no way meant as a derogatory statement but the fact is when push comes to shove, your life and wellbeing doesn’t necessarily rely on the statutory emergency services, how fast I can drive a clapped out old 150K miles on the clock diesel Astra to get to your aid or how good the micro-surgeon who is sowing your body parts back together after that argument with the band saw is, it quite often relies on Granny Miggins and the 10p she dropped into a charity box being shook outside Asda last week.
Our volunteer rescue services are fab.
All of them.
Every single one.
Without them, we really would be in big, big trouble. They will turn out in terrible conditions, in the howling wind, rain or snow, in the middle of the night, in sub zero temperatures, without grumbling about it, and will do a fantastic job every time …. without being paid a penny for it. They are, without a shadow of a doubt, each and every one of them, REAL HEROES !
The question I have to ask is ‘Is this the right way to be going about things ?’
So I asked the question, and based on the reply I got I would have to say Yes it is. Keep the Government, Civil Service and all the bureaucracy that goes along with it as far away from these organisations as is humanely possible. I spoke with a fellow police officer who, in his (little) spare time, is also an active member of a volunteer search and rescue organisation. I asked him why he does what he does, and what motivates him. This is what he said:
“Even in the current climate I enjoy being a bobby, I enjoy trying to make a difference even if we don’t always manage it. Police officers put themselves in harm’s way on a regular basis – we see this through social media, although the mainstream media don’t always choose to share it as a it doesn’t suit their masters’ agendas. We also remember colleagues and forebears who have lost their lives saving or trying to save others.
“ Despite the commitment of individual officers though, the police service, and all the other emergency services, are hampered by funding and bureaucracy – and I don’t just mean the over-cautious ‘elf and safety’ risk assessments. Being large government organisations there are tendering processes, contractual obligations, legislation, statements of purpose, departmental remits, all of which inhibit the individuals’ ability to get on with the job on the ground.
“ Most volunteer rescue teams are self-controlling, cutting through much of this to get to a solution – for example, if we need a particular piece of equipment, we research the best bit of kit for the job and get it. Likewise if we are asked to go to a job and its within our capabilities we go. We can often be there, do the job and be back at base in the time it would take the statutory emergency services to fill in the paperwork and do the risk assessment before a single blue light is switched on.”
“In the current financial climate the police are looking to these volunteer teams more and more as a cheaper alternative to paid police resources – seeing how their specialist skills and equipment can assist the ever thinning blue line in ways that they haven’t previously done. This will inevitably put more of a demand on the volunteers’ time and the charities’ finances.”
“This isn’t to detract from the hard-working cops on the ground, but to highlight the ways in which the voluntary sector can sometimes do things quicker, more efficiently, safer and certainly cheaper than the statutory services.”
If you are still reading this I implore you; Support our volunteer rescue services.
- Visit that charity shop they run,
- Leave them a bequest in your will;
- Drop your loose change in the bucket outside Tesco.
- Run that 10K race dressed as Chewbacca.
- Every single penny is going to help people in desperate times of need.
- Visit their websites, click on their link for the relevant donation page. Give them some money, lots of money.
Please. As much as you can spare because one day, your life could literally depend on it !