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Training of our Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton volunteers takes place continually throughout the year, rain or shine, day and night and is targeted at two main purposes. Firstly to keep our fully qualified established team members and hill party leaders skills up todate with the latest good practice on all aspects of search and rescue, and secondly for the introduction of new recruits into the team.

New recruits (trainees) are vital to the ongoing success of the team and bring new ideas into our training practices and protocols.

Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Ashburton Hill Party Leaders briefs a team before heading out on a missing person search

Hill party leaders

Within the team we appoint hill party leaders who act as leaders for search teams on the frontline of a search. These individuals are usually the most experienced members of the team  and have been invited to take on the additional responsibilities of team leading.

Hill party leaders undertake a training program to establish themselves within the role. A log book must be completed as part of a formal training program before a candidate leader is proposed before the committee. As a Hill Party Leader they have the key responsibility for team safety and decision making. They must be skilled in all aspects of search and rescue prior to being selected. They also liaise with the team controllers in order to co-ordinate search and rescue operations.

Trainees (new recruits)

In the autumn the team holds a selection day for prospective team members The selection day consists of various assessments both on the hill and in the classroom as well as a tour of our equipment and vehicles. Briefings are given to the delegates highlighting the skills and considerable commitment we require from pospective team members. The candidates who make it through the selection are invited to join the team and undertake the trainee training program detailed with the trainee logbook. 

The trainee log book takes on average 12 - 18 months to complete and must be fully signed off prior to being nominated to becoming a hill party member on the callout list.

The log book consists of all aspects of search and rescue including such items as Navigation, Radio Ops, First Aid, Helicopter Training, Rope Work etc…. On training exercises a trainee will normally be appointed to one of the specific tasks mentioned above with a full member shadowing them. If performing the task to a competent standard, a hill party leader will then normally sign the log book to formalise the training. As an example Navigation includes core skills such as hand railing, aiming off, attack points etc. Each skill must be completed in 3 different weather conditions, usually at night.

Practical suitability by completion of the logbook is only a part of the training. Other elements require the trainee to show general team working skills and a sound personality fit for the team.

To apply to become a trainee, email, and ask for an application form. Please bear in mind that being a member of a mountain rescue team is a considerable commitment and the next selection day is Saturday 4th November 2023 which you MUST be able to attend. Not just callouts and weekly training throughout the year, but additional training weekends and, of course fundraising as we rely on the public and our own team members and trainees for around 92% of our funding.

Dartmoor Search and rescue Ashburton train with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency search and rescue helicopters

Specific Skills

Once a full team member there are a number of specialised areas that can be pursued on top of the standard skills that are expected of all team members.

The team has an established swift water team for inland water ways and flooding incidents, a skilled rope team for steep ground work, a medical team and a hasty team of hill runners to enable the rapid search of specific areas. In addition to this specific training opportunities are available for helicopter experience with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency search and rescue helicopters and SARDA, the search and rescue dog handlers.

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Charity Number: 1202623.