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10th August 2023

Preventing hypothermia in search and rescue emergencies

We had the opportunity to talk to Holme Valley Mountain Rescue about their search and rescue experiences, processes and learn more about hypothermia prevention in emergency situations.

We would like to give an enormous thank you to the team for providing an insight into their roles as a search and rescue team. You can learn more about their organisation here.

 

What is in your emergency kit?

We carry full medical equipment needed for primary treatment. This includes medication for pair relief, a vacuum mattress, lower leg splint. We also carry an oxygen cylinder with us incase someone needs it. The stretcher we use is a “bell stretcher”, the collapsible alpine type.

We also carry some food and drink for casualties. Our aim is to have enough equipment to keep a causality alive for 24 hours.

We use a “reusable casualty bag” currently, which is like a fleece lined sleeping bag.  This is used in conjunction with an emergency blanket. We carry multiple emergency blankets but just the one casualty bag.

 

What kind of situations would you be most likely to see hypothermia?

In short, all rescue situations. Although the likelihood of hypothermia does vary depending on how cold the temperature is, whether it is windy or wet etc. Of course it also depends on the injury type. But we always treat the casualty for hypothermia anyway.

 

How crucial is time when treating someone who has been rescued?

Time is vital for someone who has chest pains, they could be Stage 3 or worse hypothermia and likely to soon go into cardiac arrest. But for other cases, we won’t rush treatment. It is best to create a calm environment so that the rescuers can think clearly, and work together as a team to deliver the best possible care in the situation.

Being calm also puts the casualty at ease.

 

How does Thermarmour work in an emergency situation?

We store emergency blankets in a primary medical bag, so that it is easily accessible when we first arrive at the scene. In some cases where there is trauma, which there normally is, we always treat for hypothermia first before attempting anything else, even in warm conditions.

When rescuing a casualty out of water, we always wrap them straight away in an emergency blanket, as this creates a vapour barrier and helps with achieving normothermia. It also acts as an infection barrier for the casualty.

 

How do you use the hypothermia blanket?

We use the emergency blanket by opening it up out of the packet, then we wrap it fully around the casualty so that it wraps around back onto itself. This provides a “cocoon” for the causality.

The opening needs to be easily accessible, especially if we suspect that the casualty is in Stage 3 hypothermia. This puts them in danger of cardiac arrest at this stage.

 

Do you always use a blanket, or would you use a poncho in certain situations?

We typically use an emergency blanket for casualties. But we do sometimes provide emergency ponchos to the 10% of rescue cases that we’d class as the “walking wounded”. I.e. those who don’t need to lie down.

If they are are to put their arms inside the arm holes, then this is the best solution as it provides coverage to the neck and head as well. However, we tend to use ponchos for family, friends or bystanders who are there during the rescue, as a preventive measure.

 

Preventing hypothermia in search and rescue emergencies

Hypothermia prevention is key in any rescue situation, on land or in water. Emergency blankets and ponchos are an easy and effective way to prevent hypothermia whilst waiting for further assistance.

Thank you to Holme Valley Mountain Rescue for sharing their expertise with us. Find out more about their work here.

Take a look at our range of emergency hypothermia products.

Categories: Interesting info, Product Spotlight

Tags: hypothermia, hypothermia prevention, mountain rescue, normothermia, search and rescue

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