#Congratulations to the class of 2020 - Alistair Findlater, Pete Haigh, Ed Holliday, Josh Smith, Gareth Talbot and Mark Timmerman – who after a year of training and hard work were formally voted onto Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team (CVSRT) on Tuesday 28th January as operational team members.
The final challenge for the team consisted of a 20 hour assessment staged around the Calder Valley and designed to bring together everything that was learnt through the year.
The whole team would like to welcome aboard our new operational members and look forward to working with you over the coming years.
A huge thanks to all of the team members, supporters, families, land owners and trainees for making this a successful assessment.
For an in-sight into that final assessment below is an account of the weekend written by one of the trainees, Ed Holliday.
At 18:15 on Friday 24th Jan, six of us met at the CVSRT main base in Mytholmroyd, known as The Rescue Post. This was the start of our final assessment, and the end of twelve months of training.
Since our initial hill assessment in January 2019, we had; spent six months training every Tuesday evening and the occasional weekend, had an operational assessment in Ireland in July, and been on callout list for six months as probationary members. This then, was a huge milestone for us all.
By 19:30 we were heading out to our first scenario, a report of a missing female, who had gone up onto the moor, with her baby, in a distressed state. As it was cold and foggy, our first thoughts were finding her quickly, as hypothermia is always a risk for our casualties. As we were briefed by the incident lead, we were assigned a fell party role; Fell Party Leader (FPL), Second-in-Command (2IC), Medic, Casualty Safety and Navigator. We were then given our callsign ’Calder one zero’ and off we went. The cloud was so low that we were immediately enveloped in mist, underfoot the path was very boggy, so this was going to be a difficult search.
Our first challenge in the fog and uneven ground was carrying out a rapid path search of sufficient width to not miss a casualty, whilst remaining in sight of each other. After about half a mile, one of the team heard a baby crying (which turned out to be a recording to add realism). We soon located an unconscious female, and an infant mannequin.
The Fell party leader quickly decided to send two of the team back to the team vehicles with the baby. At the same time, the Medic and Cas Safety set up a storm shelter, known as a KISU, over the female casualty and commenced the primary survey. In the meantime the 2IC radioed for a further fell party, with additional equipment. Whilst awaiting the second fell party, made up of full team members giving up their Friday night to help us with our assessment, the Navigator plotted the best route off the moor. Following a half mile stretcher carry, we found ourselves back at the team vehicles where the ‘casualty’ made a miraculous recovery and introduced herself as our Training Officer’s daughter.
Following a short debrief, where any learning points were discussed, we were re-tasked to our second scenario. This time it was up to the top of Cock Hill and another rapid path search, to locate two missing ‘Squadies’ who had reportedly gone out on a special forces selection practice, but hadn’t returned as expected.
Once again a short briefing from the incident lead, a switch round of roles and off we went. Initially the path was clear and easy to follow. However, the navigator was soon put to the test, by a barely discernible track. After a fairly short distance we located the two ‘Squadies’ and were surprised to find they were actual soldiers! This scenario would test our skills as both casualties needed medical help. The first was showing obvious signs of hypothermia, so needed to be warmed and given some ‘exercise’ hot drinks and chocolate. The second was more serious, with a very familiar type of injury for CVSRT, a lower limb open fracture. Once again a second fell party were called in, with a stretcher and more advanced medical kit, whilst the, now re-warmed, casualty was walked off the moor. This time the Navigator identified a different path off, which, would be easier for the stretcher party to reach the roadhead. A short time, and strenuous stretcher carry later, we were back at the team vehicles and once again debriefed. We thanked the two Soldiers for their help and advised them that if the special forces didn’t work out, they could always take up a career in acting!
As team members had given up enough of their evening, it being 23:00, we stood down for the night. Team members went home to their cosy beds, and we went off to find a shelter for the night. After a lovely chilli provided by team supporters, Tracy Cokill and Laura Davies, we got the best sleep possible on a concrete floor in our sleeping bags.
The morning saw us heading off towards Rishworth, for a scenario below Green Withens Reservoir. This time we were to assist the Police to recover a deceased casualty from within a staged crime scene. The stretcher carry for this scenario was the trickiest yet with quite a lot of steep ground, so gave an opportunity to demonstrate our rope skills. We used a technique called back roping, to assist with going downhill, and a walking V, for going uphill. Another successful scenario, a short break for a team photo with the vehicles, then on to scenario four. This time we were tasked with a detailed path search to locate a missing person.
It quickly became clear, that the missing person, had been shedding items along his way and our task was to locate and log, but not move the items. The detail of the brief, had given us enough information, to treat the search area as a potential crime scene. As we walked along the main path searching for evidence we met a walker, unsure if he was part of the scenario we quizzed him and made a mental note of his appearance.
After we concluded the scenario, the assessor asked if we had spotted the can of drink he had placed, to distract us from other evidence. We said we hadn’t, then we remembered the walker had been drinking a can of the same drink. It appears he had come across a full can of drink on the moor and decided it was just his lucky day!
Next up came, what was to be our last scenario, following a walk over to Blackstone Edge, we were tasked to access a casualty who had fallen into a quarry. Access was to be made using rope equipment to descend down a steep slope and raise the casualty by stretcher. Once we got to the casualty we realised it was Izzy, who had started the training with us, but unfortunately had to leave mid-year as her work took her away from the area. We look forward to hopefully welcoming Izzy back to the team later this year.
It was now 13:00 on Saturday and our assessment was over. All but for the mundane, yet important job of cleaning, servicing and drying all of the kit. The Vehicles were repacked with dry kit and made ready for the next call out.
Thankfully, we all passed our assessment and are now operational team members, though the learning doesn’t stop here. We will continue to train on two Tuesdays a month, plus attend courses for specialist and core skills. This year the whole team will re-visit the medic training, which is refreshed every three years, so we look forward to that.
Our thanks go to; the supporters, who fed us, the team members, who gave up their Friday evening and Saturday morning to provide numbers, the casualties, who added realism and especially the trainers, Les and Paul, who, over the year gave us the confidence and skills to enjoy and pass the final assessment.