The North West Rescue Team is once again in the spotlight after they deployed to help a father and his 6-year-old-son who had become stranded on Slemish Mountain in freezing conditions last weekend.
The volunteer group is devoted to saving the lives of others, often in hazardous conditions.
Louis Edmondson, an active volunteer, says the team are actively on the lookout for new recruits.
“Every member of the North West Mountain Rescue team is a volunteer, no-one gets paid a penny,” explains Louis. “We all have full-time jobs, but that doesn’t stop us from responding to calls - even if it’s at two or three in the morning.
“We are very rarely not on-call. In fact, a few years ago - we got a call on the evening of December 26 - and everyone abandoned their Boxing Day dinner and set off to rescue those in need.
“Each one of us provides our own gear, with the exception of compulsory equipment that we absolutely need, such as helmets.
“We get a woollen hat and helmet plus gloves (which in themselves cost the organisation up to £100 for each member), whilst everything else is bought by the individual. This ranges from first aid kits to sleeping bags and waterproof jackets.”
Louis says the group is always keen to hear from potential new members from right across the age and gender spectrum.
“We would particularly welcome more women to apply, as at the moment, we only have approximately one third women to thirds men - and we’d love to see an increase.
“There is a high turnover because it’s such a high demand role and we’d actively encourage anyone who may be interested to get in touch.”
Louis says many of their call-outs are down to people not taking common sense precautions.
For example, he says that people often underestimate how quickly darkness can fall in the winter, and emphasised the importance of being well-prepared.
He said: “So far, this year alone we have conducted 17 rescue searches. Whilst our searches are technically ‘successful’ when we find the missing person, it is obviously very rewarding when we find them safe and unharmed.
“However, there can be very sad occasions when we come across those who have unfortunately already passed away.
“So with this in mind, my advice to people, particularly at this time of year, is very simple - go out well-prepared.
“Make sure people know when and where you are going, and what time you expect to be home.
“Perhaps most importantly, always remember to bring a torch - you’d be surprised just how many people get caught out when they go out in winter as they don’t realise how quickly darkness falls.”
His advice comes after the team performed their ‘dramatic’ rescue mission on Sunday (November 20).
The ‘lengthy and difficult’ rescue operation faced many obstacles.
The father and son had gone for a ‘pleasant’ afternoon walk - but hadn’t realised how quickly darkness falls in winter.
This meant the team had to get resourceful, as Louis explained: “We got the dad to spot our head torches as we searched, and even had to make him switch on the torch on his mobile phone.
“We found them located high up, in among the ice covered rocks, frightened and getting colder in temperatures that had dropped to – 4C in a biting wind.
“Our first task was to get them warm and then get them off the hill as quickly as possible, when another 10 members of the team, some of whom had come from Belfast and Craigavon, arrived to the site with ropes and a stretcher to successfully evacuate both of them down, through dangerous terrain, to their grateful and relieved family waiting below.”
The North West Mountain Rescue team are actively on the lookout for new recruits, particularly as they come into the more difficult winter conditions.
To find out more about helping the North West Mountain Rescue Team, you can visit http://www.nwmrt.org/ or visit the North West Mountain Rescue team on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NWMRT.