Safety advice

A quick look at our Callouts page will show that the majority of the casualties we deal with in Rossendale and Pendle would not consider themselves walkers or climbers.  There is much excellent online advice for those that want to go into depth about climbing, mountaineering and hillwalking, and we suggest you explore the two sites given below if you need this level of information.

Advice on climbing and mountaineering skills can be accessed here:

British Mountaineering Council: walking

British Mountaineering Council: climbing

For general walking safety, the Rambler’s Association offers useful advice:

Ramblers Association guides to safety

For information about climbing clubs and other places to learn how to be safe, please look at our main Links page

 

General advice

For anyone who is away from a road accessible to an ambulance, the following tips can be life savers:

1. Take your mobile phone, and make sure it’s charged. While we say there’s no substitute for proper navigation skills, if anything goes wrong you’ll need to be able to contact the Emergency Services. While the Police can work out an approximate location of a mobile phone, this takes time, and is not accurate enough to find you immediately.

2. Know where you are. Sometimes easier said than done, but if there was an accident, could you give directions to an Emergency Service so they could find you? For example, being able to say “turn up Shawclough Road and keep going till you see the ruined farm” can help us find you. If you are deeper into the countryside or higher on the hills, you should really consider use of a map and being able to give a grid reference. Telling us that you are on Scout Moor next to a wind turbine might not be that helpful – there are quite a few up there!

3. Dress appropriately. Most casualties we see with lower limb injuries have slipped because of footwear with insufficient grip.  You don’t need to go and buy a pair of boots just to walk the dog, but approach shoes or trail/walking shoes can keep you on your feet. A properly waterproof top layer of clothing can make all the difference if the weather is cold and wet.

 

Hill walking 

No more than an extension of general principles, but if you go off the beaten track, it’s nice to have the skills and kit to do it with safety – and also comfort!

1. Know where you are. Carrying a map and compass is all very well – but you must know how to use them. GPS units specifically made for walkers are very useful, as you can instantly get an accurate grid reference although they are no substitute for a map and compass and the batteries have a nasty habit of dying on you when you need them most. GPS applications on mobile phones are less useful, unless they can give you an Ordnance Survey grid reference for your location. If you can give us a grid reference, by whatever means, it saves us a lot of time looking for you.

2. Dress appropriately. You can get very cold very quickly just on local moors above our towns and villages. This is the wet side of the Pennines – waterproof clothing can be a life saver. Slippy, muddy paths and wet grass need grippy footwear. The worst case scenario is that you end up being sat for some hours if you get lost or have an injury. Ask yourself if you could manage to keep warm for that length of time, even on a warm day once your body has cooled after exercise.

3. Carry some essential safety items. Yes, your mobile phone is one of them, but will it work if it gets wet? A 5p plastic sandwich bag can keep it dry for emergencies. And make sure it’s fully charged before you set off! Mountain Rescue personnel carry all sorts of great gear in their rucksacks, but one item we rate highly is a hand torch or head torch. It lets you use your map in the dark, lets you see where you are walking with some degree of safety, and can be used to signal for help. A whistle is a must as well; they cost pennies, don’t need batteries, but can be heard even if we can’t see you. Learn the emergency signal for a torch or whistle: six blasts or flashes at one minute intervals and keep doing them until someone reaches you.

 

Climbing 

This might seem rather strange but it’s very, very rare that the Team will deal with a ‘proper’ climber, because most ‘proper’ climbers make use of helmets, ropes and other safety equipment when they go to a local crag. The people we usually assist have had an accident which was avoidable.

1. Falls kill. A fall of more than your own height can kill you. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a tree, off a factory wall or off a cliff edge. If you fall 5 metres, ie just over twice your own height, it is highly likely to be fatal. Think before you go anywhere that has potential for a fall.

2. Don’t climb without safety. Why do climbers use ropes? Because they don’t want to get injured or die.

3. Don’t climb without training and knowledge. Going up a quarry with your mum’s washing line tied round your waist will not save you. You not only need the right equipment, you need to know how to use it.

4. Don’t jump into water. Another significant cause of injury is jumping into lodges, reservoirs and rivers. All very amusing till someone hits the rocks under the water and has two broken legs. Just because you’ve seen someone else jumping in doesn’t guarantee you a safe landing.

 

Winter conditions

The winters of 2009 and 2010 were extremely cold, and saw much snow and ice that lasted for weeks. Both pedestrians and motorists were affected, as Councils struggled to keep on top of the winter weather. Just think – if you can’t get your car up your road, how is an ambulance going to manage?

There’s plenty to read about winter driving on the web, but here are a few things we suggest you consider.

1. Is my journey really necessary? It’s a very simple question, but do you really need to be going out?

2. Is my vehicle suitable for the conditions? 4×4 drive does help, but are you used to driving on surfaces with poor traction? Learning about rear wheel skids and four wheel skids is best done away from the public road. There are a variety of options to increase the traction of even a two wheel drive car such as snow chains, snow tyres and autosocks (a kind of textile tyre cover). They have pros and cons but can stop you getting stuck.

3. What if I do get stuck? Have you enough warm clothing with you, not just to keep warm in the car, but in case you have to be walked from your car to safety. A couple of fleece blankets and a flask can do a lot of good if the worst happens; wellies and some warm socks are nicer to walk in than your office shoes.  And of course your trusty, fully charged mobile phone.

4. Slipping on pavements. If you slip and fall as a pedestrian, it can be sore at the very least, but can be much more serious, especially if you are elderly. The traditional walking stick still has a place, but more modern walking poles with a metal tip can be steadier on icy pavements. Most footwear slips on ice but there are a variety of strap on/pull on devices to go on ordinary footwear that use spikes and/or chains to give much better grip on ice. They take seconds to put on, and cost usually less than £20.