Safety in the Hills
July 2017 – some guidance on safety in the hills from Dr Alan Stone
When MDC Tuesday night runs were more sparsely attended, the ethos was very informal, more like a group of friends going out for a run together. Now that these runs are attracting larger numbers it is probably best we formalise things. I don’t think we should ever move away from the ethos of personal responsibility. However, with the larger numbers, we are seeing runners with less experience turning up and these runners may need some guidance on what to expect in the hills. Each runner is ultimately responsible for their own safety.
Respect the Weather
Any guidance is always going to have to be aimed for the worst weather conditions in the most remote parts of the Beacons. The more experienced members will need to keep an eye out for newer members and be prepared to tell them that they are under dressed, under equipped or under prepared, however unpopular that may be. We cannot always guarantee that experienced runners will be present. Being training runs then people tend to turn up only if they’re fit and well and free to come. If there are no experienced runners present then those runners present should only attempt what is within their skill set and experience. If that means a low level run on roads then that is what they should do. If the weather has been terrible I have been present when even experienced runners have been known to do a low level route. Again, it is about making sensible decisions before setting out to prevent problems later. There is no shame in backing out of something that is too hard or too difficult for your level of skill/experience.
Of course, equipment is only useful if you know how to use it. I would recommend everyone should go on at least a St John’s Ambulance first aid course or a first aid course aimed specifically at mountaineers. All runners in the hills should be familiar with the symptoms of hypothermia – see the leaflet below, and this blog post for more info. A navigation course is also essential. A map and compass are only useful if you know how to use them.
What to Carry
The following list is aimed at getting an injured runner, who is capable of being moved, off the mountain to safety when running in a group situation. More definitive treatment can be provided later. Not everyone needs to carry everything. If you want to ensure that the equipment is available then you should carry it. Please do not assume someone else is carrying it. If none is available after your accident and no equipment is available then the only person you should blame is yourself for not carrying it. We do not do kit checks. Again, personal responsibility.
- Mobile phone – remember there are large areas of the Beacons without signal.
- Map and compass – to find the quickest/safest/easiest way off the hill with an injured runner.
- Waterproof total body cover including hat and gloves.
- Light weight survival bag in case you can’t move the casualty.
- Latex gloves in case you’re touching blood or other bodily fluids.
- Large absorbent pad – to put on gashes and open wounds. Can also be used as an eye pad.
- 2 or 3 bandages – these can be used to hold the pad in place and can also be used to stabilise a fracture, to splint a fractured limb to its neighbour or to your body. They can also be used to fashion a sling. One of the bandages can also be used as an additional absorbent pad. If you are experienced in the use of tourniquets they can also be used for this purpose.
This list is not exhaustive but is designed to deal with the common trip, slip or fall type injuries that are most likely to be encountered on our training runs. I have not included the usual safety clips, plasters and scissors etc you see on many lists quite deliberately. As runners we try to minimise weight and none of these additional items will make the difference between getting off the hill to safety or not.
There will be some situations where someone is so severely injured that it is best not to move them but to ensure they are warm and to call for help. Head injuries with loss of consciousness, neck injuries, lower limb fractures where you cannot carry the person off the hill, for example.
Enjoy your runs, stay safe out there!