Grant for search and rescue team

Pictured is NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson handing the keys for the new Landrover ambulance to Sean Stephen, HebSAR Deputy Team Leader.

Pictured is NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson handing the keys for the new Landrover ambulance to Sean Stephen, HebSAR Deputy Team Leader.

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A Western Isles voluntary organisation that provided vital emergency support services to NHS Western Isles and other local agencies during severe weather over recent years has been awarded a grant from the local Health Board to help develop the invaluable services it provides.

NHS Western Isles has provided Hebrides Search and Rescue (HebSAR) with a capital grant of £10,453, which has enabled the team to purchase key equipment including a mountain rescue Landrover ambulance and personal protective equipment.

HebSAR was set up around three years ago, and is made up of a team of volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds; ranging from medical professionals to outdoor pursuit instructors. The team’s primary role is to assist the police in search and rescue operations, and as a secondary role, volunteers assist the emergency services during major incidents.

Similar to other teams across the country, HebSAR is a police asset and controlled by Northern Constabulary, which takes the decision whether or not to deploy the team in a search/rescue situation. The team has a permanent store in the police station in Stornoway and the police have been, and continue to be, extremely supportive of the team.

The capital grant awarded by NHS Western Isles enabled HebSAR to purchase an additional 4x4 mountain rescue Landrover ambulance, including communications gear and snow chains; personal protective equipment (including safety helmets for the entire team); and technical rescue equipment, such as ropes, rigging equipment and harnesses.

With two dedicated mountain rescue vehicles now available, the team can respond to calls more effectively and maintain one vehicle as a fully equipped 4x4 ambulance. There are also two radio sets now in each vehicle, enabling effective communication between HebSAR and other agencies. This has significantly improved HebSAR’s command and control capacity.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “The services provided by HebSAR have already proved invaluable to NHS Western Isles, particularly during the severe snow and ice during 2010/11, when search and rescue volunteers provided a key service by transporting healthcare workers between healthcare premises and patients’ homes. During this time, NHS Western Isles and HebSAR developed strong partnership working arrangements.

“We were delighted to have had the opportunity to be able to fund essential equipment for HebSAR, which will enable them to continue to enhance the excellent services they provide locally.”

The HebSAR team stated: “Many thanks to NHS Western Isles and to Gordon Jamieson for his continued support. The grant has made a huge difference to the development of the team. Our capacity to respond to a wider variety of callouts and improve the safety margin for people working or playing in remote locations has been greatly enhanced.

“The team has wasted no time in securing a team of trainers from the Mountain Rescue Committee for Scotland (MRCofS) to come and deliver a three day course to ensure we have the most up to date training possible in technical rigging/rope rescue. This will enable us to use the equipment to its highest potential. The capacity to perform technical rope rescues in remote mountain settings was not previously available locally.”