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23/12/2009

Mountain Rescue SARDA

Mountain Rescue SARDA

Lake District Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) is an organisation for air scenting search and rescue dogs for Mountain Rescue in the UK. (There are other SARDA groups in England, Wales, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Ireland).  Karen Frith volunteers in the Lake District and has given us a bit of an insight into her amazing role and multi-tasking life.

All Mountain Rescue personnel are volunteers and alongside this Karen has a fulltime job with Cumbria Fire and Rescue. Being on call constantly can mean very long days both searching for people on the hill and then a full day at work. Twice in the last week or so, for example, she has been called out at 4am to assist in the search for missing people before then going into work.
Accompanying Karen on every call is her dog, Dottie. The dogs are essentially pets who do a job! The handler selects the dog (preferably when it is young) and they remain together through their respective careers with SARDA and into retirement. Dog teams tend to get called out when weather and visibility are at their worst as dogs aren’t hampered in these conditions: and they are expert at locating casualties due to their highly tuned sense of smell.
Karen’s decision to join SARDA was based on a personal experience. A keen mountain walker and skier she was once rescued whilst skiing in the Alps.  She decided that she wanted to give something back and moving to Cumbria provided the opportunity to start fundraising for Mountain Rescue which then turned into an operational role. Shortly after, Karen branched out into the SARDA dog team where she and Dottie began training, eventually qualifying after 2 years hard work.
Karen and her the dog teams are mainly kitted out in Páramo and, as equipment officer, every 3 months Karen receives 25 litres of Tech Wash and TX.Direct to keep the teams’ kit working most effectively under the extreme conditions in which they can find themselves.

Mountain Rescue teams can expect to be called out somewhere in the region of 50 times a year. The SARDA teams are looking at more than 70 callouts. Both arms of Mountain Rescue provide an essential service to everyone who ever ventures on the hills of the UK and as outdoor enthusiasts ourselves, we are grateful to them and completely in awe of people like Karen who enable the teams to keep going.

Resources : http://www.sardalakes.org.uk