Every Thursday night, the Central Beacons team get together in the team base in Merthyr and do some kind of training. The topics covered range wildly from radios and comms, through medical, technical, search, personal health and fitness through to physique sports equipment.

Equipment is very important for us – a technical rescue will involve about a half dozen ropes of various sizes, technical climbing and rescue equipment like belay plates, auto-arrest devices, carabiners, friction devices and so on. That entire system is a whole training course on its own, and the sytem is fail-safe and capable of lowering or raising a stretcher, casualty, two rescuers and all of their kit. So it’s understandable that we need to make sure our kit is in good order – you rarely get time at the end of the callout, when it’s raining and dark. So tonight was a kit check.

This sounds incredibly boring. To be perfectly honest, it is. Inspecting all 300′ of a rope for blemishes, abrasions or cuts and doing so inch by inch is horrendously tedious. But absoolutely necessary. This was brought back to me perfectly tonight – I had to check all of the bits in the belay kit – basically all of the technical equipment used to affect a rescue excepting stretcher and rope. 19 carabiners, 2 whale’s tail’s, 2 belay rigging plates, 14 long tape loops and 2 small, 3 malleons for the helicopter winching rig…the list goes on. And on.

But every one of these kit checks is essential. Not only do we log every use and check of a piece of kit for the police logs in case we had a problem and had to explain it to them or (God forbid) a coroner’s court, but these kit checks give us time to go through every piece of equipment and carefully check it for degredation. Tonight for example, I personally marked 3 tapes as unserviceable due to physical damage in two cases and chemical damage in the third (oil contamination).

To be perfectly honest, they would have held my weight fine. But they were damaged, and I was responsible for looking at them and saying “Hrm, that’s not good. Let’s retire these for safety’s sake.”

Kit checks. Boring? Yes. Needed? Without a doubt. Maybe we could learn from this in other areas of life….

One Response to “Kit? Check!”

  1. sam says:

    aaargh – rope. some of our ropes are 400 metres long and take bloody hours to check. It’s worse if you climb as well, because if I find a nick or a fray I always get paranoid and have to check all my personal ropes as well.

    I’ve had to ‘retire’ quite a few carabiners recently, but they make good gear clips for general use if you clearly label them.