Contours Emergency Training 2019

Emergencies crop up only rarely on our walking holidays, but we’re always on hand to provide helpful, professional support. We make sure of that with our annual training days.

What does our emergency training entail?

There are two halves: the field portion, which tests our navigational skills on the ground, and the in-office portion, where staff respond to emergency scenarios as the current field group calls them in.

There was an extra component this year with the new what3words app, which we were eager to try out. I’ll get back to that in a moment!

Emergency Training 2019

We set out from Beeley as a group of six Contours staff members (plus Contours staff dog) armed with a map, compass, directions, a mobile phone and list of questions. We'd be answering those along the way to test our awareness and give us a good feel for the sort of landmarks you automatically notice on a walk — and which you can wander right on by.

Emergency training on the Beeley Round

With beautiful weather on our side, we set off out of Beeley and into the green farmland that surrounds it, answering a few questions as we went. Partway across a field and nearing a bridge, we decided it was time to test the office team.

Reporting an injury

We phoned in to report a sprained ankle. Within a few minutes on the phone, our colleague had located us on the map from a handful of landmarks, arranged pickup for our injured walker and found the easiest route to a pickup point — after making sure we were able to cover that short distance. In the event that an injured walker is unable to move for whatever reason, we would always contact Mountain Rescue.

Our colleagues passed the test with flying colours.

Weather conditions out on the trails

We climbed up into open access moorland and ascended to the highest point of the route, where the mix of brilliant sunshine and a stiff breeze reminded us how important it is to dress flexibly with layers.

Views over access land

Fortunately we all had the benefits of both experience and our bloggers banging on about choosing the right walking kit, so we came suitably prepared.

Midlayers donned and undonned and donned again, we hiked down into a peaceful stretch of woodland, where we had lunch and office dog Maui found the ideal souvenir.

Following a woodland path on the Beeley Round Maui's emergency training involved emergency sticks

Help with a diversion

We hiked along through Hell Bank Plantation until a diversion sent us off-route. This seemed like the ideal time to call the office and test their skills at locating and redirecting a lost group.

Not far from the point where the diversion rejoined the main trail, we called in for help.

Testing what3words

Rather than focusing on our Ordnance Survey map, we opted to try out what3words. The app gives each location a reference code, replacing coordinates with three memorable words. Take, for example, the Contours office:

what3words for the Contours office

Ideally, this should allow walkers to obtain three words from the app that will place them exactly on our screen back in the office. In reality, we ran into a few issues.

One unfortunate group lacked any mobile signal in the area, so the app reported them as being at least a kilometre off route.

Meanwhile, our group discovered the difficulty of trying to communicate unusual words when the breeze won't stop murmuring in the background and the person listening can't puzzle them out via context. Adjuster, lively, cleansed, for example, took several attempts to get across. We found a simpler solution was to move to an adjacent, communicable square.

We're sure the app will only improve with time, and it's doubtless a great backup out on the trails, but there are drawbacks to be aware of. As always, paper maps and compasses are indispensable simply because they don't need batteries — but what we really liked about what3words was just how specific it could be. Its squares are significantly smaller than the OS grid, which can make all the difference when Mountain Rescue is out trying to find someone on the ground.

We managed to work around the issues above and our colleague directed us back to the route — an extremely useful experiment to keep our team up to date with perks and pitfalls of the latest technology.

Diversions for emergency training

Emergency training complete

Past the forestry machinery that had sent us off on our diversion, we rejoined the original trail and returned to Beeley, pleased with our progress and the performance of our colleagues back in the Contours office.

It really is helpful to have recent experience out on a trail when reassuring a walker who's taken a wrong turn, and to know we're always well-prepared to provide support in the rare, most serious emergency situations.

If you need assistance

Our office is manned from 09:00 to 17:30 British local time, Monday to Saturday (excluding bank holidays). Reach us on +44 (0)1629 821 900.

If assistance is required outside these times, details of an out-of-hours emergency telephone service are included in your Holiday Pack. You can also find this number in our Members Area.

Originally published 15/10/19

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