Friday, July 2, 2010

Mountain rescue (a rant, sorry!)

I’ve been reading some comments about mountain rescue, especially the helicopter side of the activity, which made my blood boil. Basically the article and subsequent comments was about the impellent need for walkers to be obliged to pay for their rescue and the introduction of restrictions controlling the winter activities of recreational mountain users. Most of those that left comments were quite angry and self-righteous blabbing the usual drivel about how you choose to go into the mountains recreationally so you should accept the risks etc., and in their opinion left to die and why should we pay for your foolhardiness? The usual comments from the brain dead or the terminally lazy most of whom will of course be either smokers or drinkers or voluntarily obese or junk food addicts and who will of course cost the taxpayer thousands in the treatment of their smoking induced cancers, liver problems, hip replacements and heart attacks.
All last year I came across articles decrying ‘recreational mountain users’ for their so-called foolhardiness, putting others’ lives at risk and costing you the tax payer so much hard earned money. Nasty irresponsible people we are. Never once a negative comment from the MR members themselves though whose generosity seems to surpass the desire to criticise.
Anyway, I always considered MR and helicopter intervention to be an emergency service like any other. A helicopter is and does in the air more or less what an ambulance does on the ground. The ambulances in italy are manned by volunteers, MR too and even the fire service has volunteers so I can’t really see the difference. They are all highly trained to do the job they do. If anyone should pay them, should it not be  the state? Nobody mentions that, ever. So I will, just why is it that the state doesn’t pay for mountain rescue? Are mountain rescue lesser individuals? Some form of inferior service?
So, as the same type of articles keep appearing in the media after every accident that doesn’t have tarmac or water under it I did a little research, basically because I can’t see the difference personally between the risks involved in say, a volunteer fireman entering a blazing building to drag your unconscious body out because you fell asleep in bed whilst smoking or MR walking out in a blizzard to rescue you because you slipped on ice and broke your pelvis. Perhaps the only difference is that the word cretin springs to mind in relation to the smoker.
It seems that most rescue service interventions, including helicopter rescue are for people taking part in recreational activities of one form or another anyway.
I found it odd that near Bergamo  six separate interventions were required by the helicopter for on-piste skiers who had fallen (none wearing helmets as far as I know). Not a mention in the article or subsequent articles of wasting tax payer’s money or irresponsibility. Is on-piste skiing not recreational? In contrast, one snowshoer was hit by a spontaneous avalanche and the full wrath of the couch potato community was unleashed with words like “irresponsible” and “criminal” and “should be banned” being liberally bandied about.
So, just from what I have been able to find  from last year there were helicopter interventions (which is what seems to create the most bad feeling) to airlift people after injuries resulting from misuse of vehicles of one form or another, people in difficulty on small boats, a kite surfer, a scuba diver, a multiple motorway pile up on Sunday (not a working day), a guy who had a heart attack whilst playing tennis and numerous, too numerous to even bother reading,  helicopter interventions for generic traffic accidents. Then there were interventions for accidents whilst playing football and the best one a guy who flew off the road after skidding out of a bend at 180 kph. All these not only required the intervention of the helicopter but variously, of paramedics, fire, police civil protection and volunteers at enormous cost but not a single criticism about these recreational users of the emergency services was penned anywhere. Where the hell is the difference? What makes driving your motorbike on a Sunday at high speed and crashing it so badly you need to be airlifted to hospital less irritating  and costly in the public’s eye than a fully equipped walker going for a walk in the mountains, slipping on wet rock and breaking a leg and needing a lift from a helicopter? Do you pay for the ambulance if you fall off your bike in the park and break your back? If you smoke or drink  heavily and require medical attention for your subsequent tumour or liver damage do you have to pay for your treatment? What on earth is it that makes people so anti mountain? The world’s gone mad. And the beach lifeguards who risk their lives diving into the water to rescue drowning swimmers or dramatic interventions by air-sea rescue to save surfers or people on lilos who find themselves in difficulty? Not a word about these.
There are always going to be imbeciles who ignore basic safety and there are always going to be pure accidents. One woman we know fell 40m on her way to a church; she was not looking where she was going and ‘stepped off the path’. That’s alright though. She was not equipped for walking, had no first aid kit though she was in the mountains. But walking to church obviously has no negative connotations as the relevant article conveyed only sympathy for the poor victim.
I think all this hostility can only be because most sheeple as the term denotes of course do what everyone else does and anything that everyone else does seems to become normal.  It’s the only thing I can come up with. Just about every intervention you can find involving the  rescue services involves people who are not working which of course means the activities they were doing were recreational.
Even the authorities have leapt to decry us ‘recreational mountain users’ with that fuckwit Bertolaso, head of the civil protection wanting laws preventing anyone from walking anywhere in the mountains when the avalanche risk is high. And the reason? Because the risks for the rescuers are too high.  But by the same token is landing a chopper  on a motorway in fog to airlift mangled drivers out not risky too? Why is it only the mountains present these incalculable risks for the rescuers? I do not feel I have less right to be rescued in the mountains than a bombed out teenager flying his car off a bridge into a river at high speed (MR were called too but no cries of outrage here either).
Most of the MR people I have met actually like what they do. Even the chopper pilot I went up with last year, ex-rescue, was telling me all about rescue piloting and said she missed the challenge of mountain rescue.
Perhaps an examination of the collective conscience is needed, a bit of putting one’s own house in order. More importantly though, perhaps people should not allow themselves to be led by the bloody journalists who are only ever out to cause trouble, never to spread truth, impartiality or balance and who always seem to be the font of these mad ideas.

No comments: