I investigated two volunteering opportunities in the Grampians yesterday. One was as a first-aider at the Banffshire Partnership, and the other was at a recruitment drive at HM Coastguard Moray.
BPL (Banffshire Partnership Ltd) are headquartered in Boyndie. They have a few strands to their operations. Predominately they run a dial-a-bus services for isolated and vulnerable individuals. A relatively new, but expanding side of their operations is the provision of First Aid support at either corporate or charitable events.
I learned that big-name organisations are turning their back on Scotland, leaving plenty of opportunities for up-and-coming organisations like BPL.
BPL do charge for the support they provide. The money they make is ploughed back into their dial-a-bus service.
I was reassured by the level of professionalism of their First Aid services, despite their somewhat humble status. They have 44 volunteers, and include nurses and former Red Cross volunteers.
They explained that they are planning on increasing their operations, but in a measured way, mindful of the risks of expanding too quickly.
They will be covering the Speyside Kiltwalk, and I offered to join them as an observer. I hope to take some pictures, and report about the event on this blog.
HM Coastguard Moray
HMCM (HM Coastguard Moray) are actively seeking new volunteers. They are also in charge of the Banff station, which is actually in Banffshire, rather than Moray.
Their recruitment drive was an valuable learning experience for me.Their main activities are search and rescue. Rescue takes the forms:
- rope rescues – performing rescues from cliffs by descending from ropes
- mud rescues – for people trapped in mud.
- water rescue – people in the water
HMCM do not perform mud rescues, as there is no need for it. Other Coastguard areas will, though. Water rescue seems to be new activity for HMCM, very fledgling, and they did not elaborate on it.
HMCM were trained in rope rescues, and we were given a demonstration that also served as their training session. A rope rescue is no small feat. There are many facets to it, and require a good-sized team to execute. It is actually quite complicated. What happens is that volunteers are trained in the simple aspects first. When they have been certified as having competency in this area, they can move onto the next thing. So volunteers develop stage by stage, rather than be overwhelmed by the need to know everything at once.
Are rope rescues valuable? The answer seems to be: yes and no. The Coastguard has a helicopter base at Inverness (or maybe Lossiemouth), and can sometimes be at a scene before the local volunteers. So a winch rescue from a helicopter might be done and dusted during the time it takes rope rescuers to perform a rescue from the ground.
Rope rescue training is still worthwhile, as helicopters cannot be guaranteed to be available.
It seems that animals, particularly dogs, are more in need of rope rescue than humans.
Most of HMCM’s actual call-outs (“shouts”) are search operations. This could be where, for example, someone suffering from Alzheimers goes missing. Sadly, many of the shouts actually amount to body recovery.
HMCM do not necessarily operate purely on the coast. They can sometimes operate inland. Depending on how an emergency was raised, HMCM can act under control of the police. The police have limited resources to carry out searches, so the coastguard is a good choice.
The fire services now seems to be an increasing resource for conducting searches. So the roles of HMCM is very much in a state of flux.
So that’s what I learned.