I have written many pieces on mountain rescue, some well received by the masses but less so within the Rescue team that I volunteered for, a team that due to personal circumstance I am taking what might be seen as a sabbatical from. I can only talk for myself, and make assumptions through my observations as a team member, and as such do not speak for the team. This I would like to get clear from the out set, mainly because I am going to address the thorny issue of reducing unnecessary calls out to mountain rescue teams.
Calls like a twisted ankle 2 miles along a path, exhaustion halfway up a mountain, lost on a major footpath. All of these and many more incidents like them become a tiresome burden on local rescue teams that deal with ‘Honey pot’ destination. Some of which might be genuine calls, however many are just people not being bothered to look after themselves and be independent. I would put into these areas LLanberis, Ogwen, Lakes District and Lochaber, Glencoe and Cairngorms.
A couple of years ago LLanberis Team had 180 call out in a year, many didn’t need a fall team call out, but I would say in excess of 120 did, that’s about one rescue every three days, with an average rescue last say three or more hours. That’s a lot of volunteer’s time. On top of that it takes around £30000 a year to run a rescue team (I Think, I am sure real figures could be gleaned for this, and this doesn’t include the price of an RAF Helicopter), meaning that a price per rescue would be around £250.
The question becomes how can we reduce this number, education is one such avenue, just how we get to the 20 to 30 year old males from the south east of England, who for Llanberis at the very least seems to be statistical majority of our jobs, is beyond me. I have talked before about an education programme that is operated by North Wales Police and the Local rescue teams in the past, and they simply don’t reach out ‘Target” audience.
Another step I have mentioned is the charging of group who use the team, or at least sending them a itemised costing of their rescue, so they can see the real cost of what it took to get them home save that day. Although it is more the human cost of voluntary time, that needs waving in people faces so they can appreciate that we don’t necessarily appreciate being called out for trivial incidents, but respond we do.
Then I read freakonomics, I shall probably bore you to death with this book, but it has an interesting tale to tell. Economic looks at the cost in terms of human, emotional, social of acquiring something. In one way examines incentives to manage human behaviour. Some of the research is interesting, and could be applicable to Mountain Rescue and reducing unnecessary call out.
First of all in my book they talk about a day-care nursery that has a problem with parents picking up their kids late. So an economist suggested charging for late pick-ups. The result wasn’t the expected reduction in lateness, but an increase. Why, because the parents could now pay off their guilt for being late. As such charging for rescues may see a similar incentive to call, if you can pay off your conscience.
Later in the book the authors examine another phenomenon of crime, this time looking at the seedy world of prostitution. Here rather than fine the hookers they looked at a punishment for the user of prostitutes, the John’s. Where in several cities they produced a wall of shame on the Internet, or a social deterrent to those that might use a hooker. If caught your picture would be posted on the web for all to see. Who would want to be seen on www.hookerandjohns.com or imagine if there were a www.ihavebeenrescued.com would this be a sufficient deterrent from making an unnecessary callout?
Who knows, I am only musing and getting fresh ideas out there.