The coronavirus crisis has impacted how everyone goes about their day to day lives and the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team is no different, Team Member John Sheader discusses how the team has had to adjust its operations and training to take into account the dynamic situation created by the pandemic.

We all fully aware of this terrible infection. The horrible consequences, the daily new cases and the precautions we must take, but it’s not the purpose of this article to re-iterate Boris’ recommendations.

You might think SRMRT is made up of relatively fit young people working outdoors in a low risk environment undertaking a relatively low risk operation. Oh if only.

The trouble with COVID, is that it can be spread before any symptoms are shown by the carrier so we can never know who has it and who hasn’t. It’s high virility means that at all costs we as a team must not risk endangering ourselves or our friends and family, and to that end, like every other organisation we have taken all necessary precautions to stay safe and operational.

On lock down in March we cancelled all training, all events, all talks, all demos, all social functions and consequently virtually all income. Training was maintained on-line but can never be as effective. Subsequently we have re-established some training in small groups, or bubbles to coin the popular phrase. Our base is “out of bounds” for all but essential use and our vehicles carry no passengers.

Call-outs of course present some very real problems and the committee have worked hard on procedures to prevent transmission of the virus between team members and casualties. Inevitably these procedures have evolved over the months and will continue to evolve as the ever changing new world evolves.

Initially our instructions were simple. We were to to wear full waterproofs, mask, goggles, gloves and helmet from arrival on scene to departure. This to be followed by specific routines for de-robing and decontaminating. I was personally involved in one of the early rescues on a very hot summers day involving a stretcher carry out up a very steep hill. I felt the possibility of heat exhaustion was a real threat. A greater understanding of the virus has lead to changes in the routines that allow more flexibility, whilst maintaining the same level of protection.

The threat is still present and will remain so for quite a while and we will have to continue to operate with this in mind to keep everyone safe. The routines developed at management level must become second nature at grass roots level rather than a fixed set of instructions to be read and memorised. Only by achieving this will we stay safe.

John Sheader, for November 2020 newsletter