Give it up!

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
You can be a mild-mannered teacher during the week and Sylvester Stallone at the weekend, as our mountain rescue volunteer attests

Richard Longman is 56 and lives in St Bees, Cumbria. He is a peripatetic specialist teacher working with pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties Volunteer role Member of Wasdale mountain rescue team for 26 years. Past eight years as treasurer of Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, the regional umbrella body that acts and speaks on behalf of the 12 Lake District teams.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I was born and brought up in the Lake District. As I spent a lot of time fell-walking and I taught outdoor education at a special school for 14 years, it was good to know that there were people ready to help if needed.

I also lived near the hospital and watched the yellow helicopter coming in so I knew how many rescues there were.

How much time do you give?

I attend one evening practice every month plus three or four full-day practices a year. Mountain Rescue responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so call outs can be inconvenient.

Did you receive any training?

There is a 12-month probation before acceptance as a full team member. You need to meet the standards and demonstrate you are a team worker. There's lots of first aid; the mountain rescue qualification is considerably more advanced than the standard St John's ambulance or Red Cross certificate. It also includes a lot of rope work on steep ground, stretcher handling and navigation. There is an expectation you are a competent mountaineer before you join, so basic skills are not part of the training.

What have you enjoyed the most?

The gratitude of people who have been in trouble, team work, the places we have to go where you wouldn't normally think of going, and watching the sun rise over the mountains after a night search.

Iand the least?

Fatalities and having to deal with people who have just seen their friend or relative killed. Going out halfway through Christmas pudding.

Has it changed your life?

Not really - we just get on with the job. I continue to teach as I have an agreement with my line managers for time off during work hours when necessary. They, and the education authority, all appreciate the need for mountain rescue.

Do you encourage others to volunteer?

For mountain rescue definitely, providing they are fit, know the area and are willing to give up a lot of their own time.;

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