What To Do In An Emergency

This will be our last blog piece on the subject of mountain safety and planning your day out. We’ll discuss some general safety tips and what to do in an emergency.

General Tips

Give out your route to someone, together with your contact details, and an expected finish time. We mentioned doing a route card in an earlier blog so pass that on.

Learn how to read a map and navigate with it and a compass. Navigating by phone alone is not a good idea. Should you run out of battery or drop the phone then you will get stuck. Use the phone sparingly unless taking photos.

Thumb the map. Keep a track of where you are on your route. Some people keep their thumb on their last known location. If you use a laminated map then you could take a sharpie and mark where you last were.

Know how to take a grid reference. This is vital should you have an emergency and need to contact Mountain Rescue. They’ll ask you for it.

Terrain traps. Watch out for areas you might get stuck. Don’t follow a route blindly without considering where its going. An example being walking along a ridge and descending too soon, leaving you on potentially steep terrain and crag fast, where you can’t go up or down.

Don’t get summit fever. If you run out of time, the weather takes a bad turn or the group is struggling then don’t keep going as thats when mistakes happen. The mountain is not going anywhere so come back another day.

Handy Phone Applications

While we don’t suggest using your phone to navigate there are some useful apps that are good to have.

OS Maps and View Ranger can be used to check where you might be on the map (providing you have the relevant tiles downloaded).

OS Locate can be used to give a grid reference, even when you have no signal.

The weather apps we mentioned in a previous blog are all useful, along with Storm Radar, which gives a real time look at what the weather is going to do over the next few hours.

In An Emergency

If someone has an accident or takes ill, or you have another predicament, then short sharp blasts on your whistle to attract attention. If you have no whistle then shout.

If you need to contact emergency services then be prepared as they will ask for the following information:

  • Your location and a grid reference. If you can’t provide one then try to remember as much information as you can about where you are and how you got there including landmarks or buildings.
  • What is the weather like and do you have sufficient clothing. They might also ask if you have a group shelter.
  • The nature of the predicament or details about the casualty (if it’s a casualty) Try to describe what happened and the type of injury, if any.
  • The number and age of people in the group. Age is very important if they are especially young or old, even if they aren’t the casualty.
  • If you are alone then make sure you tell the emergency services as well.
  • What colour clothing are you all wearing and what equipment do you have?
  • Are there any other medical conditions you know about, such as allergies, diabetes or anything else the Mountain Rescue team need to bring additional medication for.
  • The location and registration number of the vehicle or vehicles you have parked up.

Contacting Emergency Services

When you have sufficient information then call 999. You should get through regardless if you have a signal on your own network. If for some reason you can’t then you may need to move around to try and get one.

If you cant get any signal then consider sending down 1-2 experienced people from your group. The person with the most medical experience should stay with any casualty.

Ask for the Police and explain the situation. They’ll contact Mountain Rescue who will then call you back.

Until Help Arrives

It may take some time for Mountain Rescue to arrive. They have to collect equipment, travel as far as possible in a vehicle and then by foot to get to your location. Until the arrive then look after yourself and the group.

Keep everyone warm and comfortable. Casualties will get cold quickly as they can’t move about. Insulate yourselves from the ground as you can lose heat by sitting on the cold, possibly wet surface.

Remember to eat and drink but take into account you might be waiting a few hours for Mountain Rescue to find you so save some for later.

Remain where you are unless instructed to move and don’t move any casualty unless instructed to by the emergency services. The only exception to moving the casualty is if they start to vomit or choke. In which case roll them carefully onto their side, keeping the head, neck and back in line with each other.

Never use the mobile phone used to call 999 except to call the emergency services back as they may need to get back in touch with you. Turn other phones off to save the battery. If you need to turn off your phone then agree to turn it back on with emergency services in 10 minutes or at an agreed time.

When Mountain Rescue arrive hand over to the team leader and follow any instructions clearly.


We hope you’ve enjoyed the series. If you want to ask any questions then leave a comment. We can also provide training days so get in touch if its something you’d be interested in.

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