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Masks in the mountains: how a UK search and rescue team prepared for COVID-19
  1. William Robert Kitchen
  1. The Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team, Marsden, HD7 6EY, UK
  1. Correspondence to William Robert Kitchen, The Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team, Marsden HD7 6EY, UK;{at}

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When a person becomes ill, injured or lost in a remote part of the UK — the climber who falls thirty metres down a mountainside; a hiker with chest pain in the middle of a national park; the walking group lost on the fells in appalling weather in the depths of winter — the job of locating, treating and evacuating that casualty will often fall to a mountain rescue team such as my own, based in the Holme Valley in West Yorkshire. Always on call and consisting of unpaid volunteers trained in search and rescue techniques and emergency medical care, these teams will respond regardless of the weather or the time of day.

‘PPE’ is not a new term for us as a service. Our operating environment has always been dangerous. Until recently though, our PPE was the equipment that kept us safe from extreme temperatures, falling rocks and torrential rain: our climbing harnesses, helmets and cold weather gear. We always wear medical gloves when treating patients, but people with dangerous respiratory tract infections do not tend to go hiking. Droplet and aerosol precautions are therefore historically alien to us.

The spread of COVID-19 in March forced drastic changes to how we work. As my Team’s Infection Prevention and …

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  • Handling editor Caroline Leech

  • Twitter @WillKitchen96

  • Contributors WRK is the sole author of the submitted work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.