26 August 2021

Rescue training on Great Orme

 Our trainings are coming thick and fast now! Our Training Officer is clearly feeling executive. So on one Tuesday evening I was expected at Great Orme copper mine. We would do some additional stretcher training. We had new stretchers, and when we tried them out the previous time, we realised we hadn't quite nailed getting someone in there in such a way that they would still be perfectly comfortable if they would be hauled up vertically. And it is important that we perfect that skill! And why not in Great Orme. But I had never been there! My only steps on the whole peninsula were taken during the Conwy half marathon. I had never been to the platform at the top! And it would still be light when I would get there. I looked forward to it.

I drove up. It was a trip of many worlds. Your first drive through prosperous residential areas, and then through lively streets with bars everywhere. I really felt a bit out of place there! I have been to the pub since lockdown ended, but this proper urban layout with people and pubs everywhere was really alienating in a way. But also nice to see. There is still merriment going on in city centres! But after the city centre you get some less posh residential areas, and then the emptiness of the top of the great Orme. It looked pretty good! I should really come back one day when I have time to enjoy the area.

I had decided that as this was a show mine, I didn't need my usual caving kit. How crawly and dirty will a show mine be? They want tidy and respectable tourists to feel at home there. So I was just in my quick-dry trousers and my approach shoes. I had brought SRT kit, but I didn't really expect needing much of it. I was getting a bit worried when I saw a mass of caving suits, but our training officer, who knew exactly what we were going to do, did not put one on. Good!

We brought to stretchers to the entrance area, and first had the bit of a play outside. Not everyone had seen these stretchers before! So we split into two groups, and each packaged volunteer into the stretcher. We were making sure we were paying attention to detail. Which straps needed to be extra tight, which should most certainly not be tight, was there anything we needed to feed back to the manufacturer, how would we use the head blocks best to stabilise the casualty's head? When we had turned our volunteer into a stretcher tortilla, we lifted him vertically to see how that worked for him. It wasn't bad, but there was still room for improvement! So we did it all again. The second time I was put into the stretcher. On request I made it bit harder for them, by laying down in an awkward position. They had to lift me onto the spinal board. And they did it well! 

Heading for the entrance

Then they got to the part where they had to strap me in. And that reminded me of that it is important to be sensitive to the female perspective. Two of the straps go through the crotch area, and one goes over the chest. And as a casualty, you are quite powerless. I trusted the men who were actually fastening these straps, but I was still a bit uncomfortable. I think being a woman conditions you to be very wary of being powerless in the presence of a load of men (there were no other women at this training session) who get their hands dangerously close to your private areas! And I fully know that these men were just doing society a favour by sacrificing their spare time to hone their rescue skills, and that they were just being professional, but it was still a bit unnerving. I know that men with good intentions can find it rather unpleasant if women in their presence become uncomfortable in spite of their good intentions, but that is exactly the reason why there should be people there who can try to show them that perspective. I am absolutely sure it is not just me! And I think we can have faith that with the demographic buildup of the team, the male perspective is sufficiently represented. It's the female side that is at risk of not being considered.

When I was fully strapped in, they lifted me vertically as well. That went fine! I was a little bit uncomfortable as I was not in a casualty bag, so there wasn't much padding, and then some of your bones press a bit hard against the stretcher when you are put upright, but nothing I couldn't deal with. Success!

The other group had also put two casualties in the stretcher and taken them out again, and now it was time to do all of it again but then in a confined space. Due to time constraints we just walked in with empty stretchers, and put the casualty in close to the point where we would haul them up. For me it was the first time setting foot inside this mine! It looks quite spectacular. If things had gone differently, this could have been my stomping ground. The caving club associated with this particular mine had been a bit aloof when I contacted them when I moved to North Wales, so I had left them to their own devices. People had told me they were surprised at that; they seem to not generally be so condescending. Maybe I found them on a bad day! I'm sure things would be different now if they had been welcoming. But anyway; back to the training. Getting the casualty to the hauling point was a bit awkward due to the narrow passages, but that is exactly the sort of circumstances we should be prepared for. We also got them up the stairs. And then we hoisted them to a slightly higher level. It went quite well! I think we are getting the hang of these new pieces of kit. We took the casualty down again and released them. Training over! We did a little debrief and then it was time to go home. I think I will be back!

And out again

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