By far the greatest innovations in mountain rescue equipment have been in medical and cascare. Some – such as the Little Dragon breathing apparatus – have been developed specifically for mountain rescue use, others adapted from ambulance paramedic practice. Each one of them improves the already high level of casualty care delivered on the hill.
The Little Dragon, developed for the treatment of hypothermia, produces warm air for the patient to inhale, either independently, or with assistance. It works by passing air through soda lime cystals which have have had a small quantity of carbon dioxide introduced into them, giving a controlled temperature reaction.
The array of equipment on hand might include pulse oximeters, blood sugar and blood pressure monitors, defibrillators, even canulas, drips and artificial airways. (Of course, team members are comprehensively trained to use these items of medical equipment where appropriate.)
Lightweight oxygen clylinders, Entonox analgesic gas and comprehensive resuscitation kits have their own carrying bags – as do the vacmat and casbag. Smaller items are grouped together, according to potential need, in medical rucksacks, and most teams also carry smaller kits, assigned to those most likely to be first on scene, to enable initial first aid treatment before further team members and equipment arrive.
For splinting limbs a wide range of splints are used, from limb-sized vacuum splints to traction splints. As we said earlier, we've moved a long way from the five barred gate and finger post splints of our predecessors!