I am one of the 34 volunteers that make up the Galway Mountain Rescue Team. We are a local group that provide a search and rescue service for the upland and mountainous areas of County Galway.
The team responds to emergency 999 calls for missing persons or from injured persons by searching, finding and retrieving them from wilderness environments and handing them over to an ambulance or helicopter for transport to hospital.
Emergency calls come from the Gardaí and we are then notified by text message that a call-out has occurred. Members arrive to our emergency response vehicles at University Hospital Galway and deploy to the location. Search parties are deployed on the hill and when a casualty is found and treated, a stretcher party is deployed to bring them down to the road on the stretcher. The stretcher carry is an extremely laborious task requiring over ten people and often takes hours and can occur at night or in inclement weather.
This commitment cannot be sustained alone. Each volunteer has a family, them being volunteers in their own right, who support the work of the team. I have two small children myself, when a callout is issued I depend on the support of my partner to care for them. As well as being on-call 24/7 I am in fulltime employment, which means I also depend on my employer’s support in the case of emergencies.
In order to maintain this response capability, we train several times a month in mountain rescue skill set. This includes first aid, hill navigation, and stretcher work, search techniques, rigging ropes for rescue and night work. We can often be seen training in Dangan sports ground or out in the Maumturks or the 12 Bens Mountain ranges. Occasionally some members are sent to specialist training courses such as search management or leadership training.
Our members live all over the county, ranging from Gort, Loughrea, Tuam, Clonbur, Oughterard and Carna, with the majority of the membership residing in Galway City. The team was first started in the 1970s when members of University College Galway’s Mountaineering Club committed to responding to emergencies in the mountains, Galway MRT being one of the many benefits the university has given the people of Galway. The team also began assisting pilgrims on Croagh Patrick for Reek Sunday and this support continues to this day along with
supporting the Mam Ean pilgrimages and other events in the mountains
Maintaining the team in current times has proved to be very difficult. Cutbacks in Government funding and the difficulties of attempting to fundraise during a recession has led us to reach out to all stakeholders in the mission of the team to inform them of the importance of the work we do and the necessity of local support.
The team’s main emergency vehicle is 13 years old and in urgent need of replacement. This and our other vehicle are stationed at the rear of UHG but with the impending development of a multi-storey car park
these parking spaces will be lost during construction and the team will have no base from which to operate.
Thankfully support has started to gather with Hewlett-Packard Galway confirming us as their Charity of the Year for 2013. Great Outdoors on Eglinton Street have also stepped up to support us.
The work of the team is important to the prosperity of Galway in maintaining an emergency response service for tourists from home and abroad, local walkers, students and participants in outdoor pursuits. We are essentially a local response to a local need and we would ask all Galwegians to get behind our efforts and support us.
Earlier this month I got the opportunity to see the community support in action when an elderly man went missing in the Moycullen area. We were tasked by the Gardaí to assist in the search, alongside other organisations and local people we searched for two days. Thankfully it was a positive result and the gentleman was found safe and sound. I’m proud be a volunteer with Galway Mountain Rescue and hope to continue giving my time to this cause for the foreseeable future.