Fell Rescue column: Don’t rely on mobile phones when on walks

We were pleased again to attend the Knaresborough Bed Race to watch over the river crossing section.

We were pleased again to attend the Knaresborough Bed Race to watch over the river crossing section.

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We were most pleased to again attend the Knaresborough Bed Race to ensure the river crossing section went without any mishaps.

To be able to use our Swift Water Team, our specialists who played their part so well in the York and Cumbria floods, at such a happy family event and for them to be so warmly welcomed by the crowds made it so enjoyable.

The Knaresborough Bed Race is such a happy family event. Picture by Sara Spillett.

The Knaresborough Bed Race is such a happy family event. Picture by Sara Spillett.

We will be back again next year for sure.

It didn’t take long for a ‘selfie’ to initiate a Mountain Rescue call-out.

We hear of a couple stuck on a ridge in the Peak District who had the presence of mind to send an earlier selfie of their location to assist the Edale team in locating them.

However, while this tale has perhaps opened our eyes to new ways of finding people, your mobile phone may not always be the most reliable way of calling for help.

Batteries can very quickly run flat and signal coverage on the fells is still a hit and miss affair.

That said, the use of mobile phones has grown enormously in the last decade with the majority of calls for mountain rescue help now made from mobiles.

So, how do you make the most of your mobile and maximise your chances of maintaining contact once you have called for help?

Keep your mobile in a plastic bag somewhere warm and accessible, where you can hear it in the prevailing conditions.

Always pack a spare fully charged battery in a separate plastic bag.

If the signal is poor, stand still. Keep the mobile in one position to maintain the connection.

If there is still no connection remember that sometimes a 10 minute walk up the fell is sufficient to get a signal rather than running down the fell for an hour.

Shelter the microphone from the wind and increase the receive volume settings as necessary.

Minimise the call time to conserve battery power.

The rescuers may establish a calling schedule with you, for example, every 20 minutes or so, between which you may arrange to switch off your mobile.

Don’t of course start ringing other people - your rescue has to be the only priority.

Check for coverage with every mobile in the party. Use one mobile at a time to preserve batteries – or swap batteries.

If there is only one mobile and it shows no coverage, disconnect the battery for one minute and reconnect. Switch on and try again.

If you cannot move and/or have insufficient network coverage to make a voice call, try sending a text message from all the available mobiles in your party to your point of contact.

Modern smartphones are also Global Positioning System devices.

GPS does not of course require a phone signal to work.

A free app such as OS locate from Ordnance Survey will tell you where you are but we suggest you download it and practise with a map before you get lost and need it for real.