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Calling for mountain rescue

If you require assistance on the hill call 999 or 112 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue.

Essential information to have at hand:

  • The location of the incident (ideally a six figure grid reference and a named feature)

  • The number of casualties

  • What is wrong with the casualties

  • Are the casualties deteriorating?

  • Details of the equipment in the group i.e. group shelter

  • Your contact telephone number and any other mobile numbers in the group

Mobile phone reception in the Highlands can often be intermittent or non-existent. If you are involved in an incident on the hill and need to call assistance but cannot make voice calls, there may be enough signal to send a text message. You can contact the 999 emergency services using a text from your mobile only if you have already registered with the emergency SMS text service. 

How to register:

Text the word 'register' to 999. You will get a reply, and should then follow the instructions you are sent. This will take about two minutes of your time and could save your life.

Mountaineering Scotland has worked together with Scottish Mountain Rescue to provide this simple advice for how manage in the event of an incident:

  • Stay calm. Take time to assess the situation and decide what to do.

  • Check that you, the casualty and group aren't in immediate danger. If you are, seek to make the situation safe. 

  • If anyone is injured, remember ABC – airway, breathing and circulation (look for signs of life or blood loss)

  • Treat any injuries (remember the first principle: ‘do no harm’)

  • Insulate the casualty from the ground, add extra clothing. Place any unconscious casualties in the recovery position.

  • Determine your exact position on the map and consider the options for:

    1. Descent to safety. What will the terrain be like? How far to reach safety? Are you sure you can carry the casualty? Will the casualty’s injuries be made worse by travelling?

    2. Finding shelter. Don’t use up valuable time and energy unless you are sure about finding shelter.

    3. Staying put. Will your situation be resolved if you stay where you are?

    4. Seeking help. Remember that even when a rescue team has been alerted, help might not arrive for several hours.

  • Try to conserve mobile battery life by having all the details to hand before phoning for help. A list of the details needed is shown above.

  • If there is no mobile coverage at your location, consider whether it might be worth moving to another location to phone from.

  • Check who else in your party has a mobile phone (and coverage) and evaluate the amount of battery life available in the event of additional calls being necessary.

If all other forms of communication fail, the internationally recognised emergency signals are six blasts on the whistle or six torch flashes repeated every minute.

A personal locator beacon (PLB) is primarily a life-saving device, similar in size to a mobile phone, which radios a distress signal to orbiting weather satellites. Once triggered, the PLB will alert the emergency services to your exact location. 

Satellite technology ensures that PLBs are a more reliable way of calling for help than mobile phone, as they only need a clear view of the sky, unlike a mobile phone which relies on a signal from a land-based transmitter.

PLBs do not require an annual subscription, but they do need to be registered in the UK with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. There is no charge for this service and details are provided at the time of purchase.

The SPOT is designed to be a messenger first and foremost, so it is much smaller and has more options for communicating than a PLB. It is not just an emergency device. 

A SPOT has the flexibility to send several different messages. For example, it can send a grid reference, so your family can track your progress on a multi-day trip, or an SOS to alert the emergency services to your location.

SPOT uses different satellite systems to PLBs and some rugged terrain can interfere with SPOT transmissions. SPOT users must have an annual service plan or they do not function.