When to Call for Help

When to Call for Help

Early recognition of the seriousness of a situation can lead to early help and rescue

When to Call for Help 

When to Call for Help

Few people go into the hills with the intention of calling out the emergency services, but there may come a time when you should do so for the safety of you and your party. A decision-making skill is to know when that time has come, not leaving it too late. Whether you’re lost, cragfast, injured, or a group member is suffering from the onset of hypothermia, it’s better to make an early decision during daylight than to unwisely delay until the onset of darkness. Do not be afraid to call for help if you have a genuine emergency.

Example Situations

Here’s a list of example situations when you may need to call the emergency services:

  • Someone has injured themselves and cannot walk, or would make the injury worse if you tried to get them to walk out. You are miles from the road

  • A medical emergency – such as suspected heart attack, substantial unidentified internal pain, or an unconscious casualty

  • A group member got wet earlier in the day and they have developed significant symptoms of hypothermia. An initial attempt to warm them up has not worked

  • You are badly lost and the terrain has become dangerous, i.e. steep slopes, ravines etc and it is impossible for you to find where you are without putting yourself and others in danger

  • It’s become dark, you don’t have a torch and you have some dangerous ground to negotiate before reaching safety

  • Yours and others’ physical and mental state has deteriorated to the extent that decision-making ability is impaired to the point of danger

Before Calling for Help

Before calling for help, try to gather the information listed below, which is what you are likely to be asked:

  • Number of people in party

  • Number of casualties, age & sex

  • What hazards are present at the location? (Next to a steep drop etc)

  • What is the best route by which to access your location?

  • Exact location – including two letter national grid prefix. If you got the grid reference from a GPS, check it against a map (you do have a map, don’t you?)

  • Nature of incident (suffered a fall and banged head, broken leg, hypothermia etc)

  • Intentions, e.g. staying put, walking in the direction of... etc 

  • If lost, note significant features in the vicinity. If lost within mobile phone network coverage, there is adequate visibility, and provided you have good battery capacity remaining, can you photograph features and include them in an SMS message if required? 

  • Weather and visibility (cloud-base, etc) on scene

  • Light level at night (for military helicopter Night Vision Goggles – NVG)

It’s good to carry a waterproof pad& pencil to note this info.

Further points

If you & group are physically able, it's safe to do so and you know where you're going, you should always walk off the hill rather than calling for help and wait in the cold.

Always consider escape routes too. Ideally you pre-planned possible escape routes.