Quiet year for Mountain Rescue as Covid restrictions hit home

Despite the long and arduous hours spent in lock-down, when seemingly everyone craved the great outdoors, the Kerry Mountain Rescue Team (KMRT) has reported fewer incidents on the mountains in 2020 compared with 2019.

n total, KMRT responded to 27 incidents last year, down from 38 in 2019. KMRT say the lower than average call-out ratio is due to the imposed lockdown and travel restrictions at the outset of the pandemic, lasting chiefly between March and June.

However, this scenario resulted in a concentration of call-outs occurring over a shorter time-frame from mid-June to early autumn.

KMRT handled a wide range of incidents from search operations to technical evacuations involving casualties with a variety of injuries and medical issues. The majority of call-outs were in the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, with a number of incidents also dealt with on the Dingle and Beara Peninsulas.

“It was a strange year from the perspective that it was an unusually quiet start due to a combination of things, particularly the lock-down,” said KMRT Assistant PRO Alan Wallace.

“Things ramped up pretty quickly from June. After that things just fell into place again and back to our usual routine,” he added.

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Putting in the practice: members of the KMRT team out on the mountain, honing their rescue skills as part of an annual training routine. COVID has impacted on training hours in 2020 Putting in the practice: members of the KMRT team out on the mountain, honing their rescue skills as part of an annual training routine. COVID has impacted on training hours in 2020

Putting in the practice: members of the KMRT team out on the mountain, honing their rescue skills as part of an annual training routine. COVID has impacted on training hours in 2020

Putting in the practice: members of the KMRT team out on the mountain, honing their rescue skills as part of an annual training routine. COVID has impacted on training hours in 2020

The virus impacted both on KMRT’s operation and preparation plans. Even though the mountains were generally quieter, KMRT personnel had to undergo strict protocols to minimise the risk of COVID transmission between its team members and casualties; a risk that was, and still is, very high. In 2019, KMRT partook in 2,300 hours of training, but this was down considerably in 2020 due to physical distancing.

The new protocols for training and call-outs mostly took place early in the year and in the autumn. KMRT said the core of this training involved Emergency First Responder training, search and night-navigation exercises, including a winter skills event in Scotland in February, prior to the outbreak of COVID.

“What happened with the training this year is that we had to restrict it because of COVID in the earlier part of the year,” Alan said.

“What we did was develop our own protocols as to how we would be able to train and keep safe. This picked up in the latter part of the year,” he added.

With the weather getting colder and conditions on the mountains becoming more treacherous, KMRT wishes to remind people to make sure that they are adequately prepared and equipped for adventures in the hills.

Weather can change rapidly at any time, and it is important to plan in advance to avoid getting caught out.

“Caution is key,” Alan said.

“The mountains are looking magnificent at this time of year, but it is winter time, so the days are short and it is very cold and slippery. It’s important to re-emphasise that people need to take care. These are the risks; whether it’s Tomies Wood or the higher mountains, the dangers increase at this time of year. Take care of yourself is the message from KMRT.”

Lastly, KMRT wishes to thank the people who donated funds to the team in what has been a difficult year due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. These funds go towards covering KMRT’s running costs; base and vehicle maintenance; technical equipment; medical supplies; insurance and communications.

“We greatly appreciate the continued support from the public, mountaineering community and local businesses. Everyone associated with KMRT would like to wish people a safe and happy New Year,” Alan said.

Independent.ie – News