We talk to Roberto Morandi, head of the Verona Station, about rescue, mountains and preventative action.
The mountains are a magnificent environment. Living safely in the mountains means understanding and respecting them to reduce the risks to a minimum.
This winter, I took part in a round table discussion to talk about Preventative Action in the mountains. I asked Roberto Morandi a few questions: he’s the head of the Verona branch of the National Alpine and Cave-Diving Rescue Team and he will tell you about Alpine rescues, who they are and what they do.
Hi Roberto. What is Alpine Rescue and where is it used?
The National Alpine and Cave-Diving Rescue team (CNSAS) e a public service used by the Italian Alpine Club (CAI). The role of the CNSAS is defined by several laws, of which:
- The rescue of injured parties, people at risk and the rescue of people who have fallen in mountain areas, in underground caverns and in other inaccessible national areas.
- To contribute to the prevention of accidents and in risk assessment associated with the sports and activities in these areas.
- To be ready to help with rescue in a calamitous situation, cooperating with the Protezione Civile (Civil Defence) and in their technical and institutional responsibilities.
The work of coordinating rescue work is given to the CNSAS and also in cases that need complex action in alpine, inaccessible or hostile environments. In some regions, CNSAS buildings are specifically known as reference points during Mountain or Cave-Diving rescue work.
Who are the men and women of the Alpine Rescue services?
The men and women of the Alpine Rescue services are normal men and women who have a great passion for the mountains.
We are convinced that it is an honour and duty to make our technical abilities available to those who find themselves in difficulties in mountains or inaccessible places.
We are all volunteers and obviously, in order not to put ourselves and others at risk, we have to be technically competent and able so that we can move over every kind of terrain autonomously and safely: from a rock face to snowy slopes, from gorges to frozen waterfalls.
How do you become a Rescuer?
To become an Alpine Rescuer, you have to be first and foremost a true alpine person, able in all mountain activities: climbing, alpine skiing, climbing snow slopes and glaciers.
Someone who has these skills and who wants to undertake this marvellous training, must first write to the head of a Station who, after verifying the personal skills of the that person, signs them up as a trainee member and invites them to participate in all the training sessions and activities of that Station for a year.
At the end of that year, the trainee member has to do practical exams on rocks, snow and ice. Only when this is all satisfactorily finished is the person considered suitable to be a member of CNSAS.
Roberto, what have you done in your life? What made you become an Alpine Rescuer?
I am a maths and sports teacher in high school. I have been part of the Verona CNSAS Station for 25 years.
My passion for mountains and my wish to put my skills to good use to help those who find themselves in trouble pushed me to become a Rescuer. I often go climbing and skiing with friends who are Alpine Rescue Volunteers and they convinced me to join their group.
Tell me about your team. How many of you are there and how are you organized?
The Verona team is composed of 26 volunteers of whom 1 is a medic, 2 are nurses, 2 are regional instructors and 5 are helicopter rescue experts.
It’s a very close team and we are active 365 days a year and 24 hours each day.
To guarantee a qualified and immediate service, we are organised into shifts with three phones so that, if necessary, those on duty and the rest of the team can be activated.
An Alpine Rescuer is always available and ready to drop what they are doing to rush to the rescue.
The real force of our team is our sense of unity and belonging together. It is also vitally important that we have continual technical training that, thanks to the foresight of CNSAS, is given equally to all volunteers throughout Italy. When it happens that teams from other provinces and regions (for example in the recent earthquake situations in Central Italy) work together, this means that we can work together immediately.
We also work closely with 118 (the emergency services) and a helicopter Alpine rescue services technician is part of the helicopter ambulance 118 service. Our collaboration with the Cave-Diving team is fundamental and, over recent years, has become even closer.
Is Prevention important?
The main aim of Alpine Rescue is to intervene as little as possible and to this end, CNSAS has always believed in and worked towards Prevention.
We try to create a sense of responsibility in people who move in inaccessible environments: this is definitely the way to reduce the number of accidents.
For the last few years, the Alpine Rescue Service has been working with the Malcesine-Monte Baldo Cable Car to put in place local strategies to prevent accidents for those using lifts and the mountain walks. One of these activities is every 18th June in the “Secure on the Path” event.
In case of an incident, how is it best to react and what should you not do?
When something happens, it’s important to stay calm and call 118 immediately. Depending upon the type of incident, a basic knowledge of First Aid can make a huge difference.
Mountain Rescue in fact, especially if the helicopter doesn’t arrive for any reason, may take a long time and keeping the injured person company is very important.
Over the last years, more and more people are using the mountains. Have you got any suggestions for those wishing to take up mountain sports?
In recent years, the use of mountains has changed greatly and we are seeing many more people enjoying the mountain environment. Unfortunately however, very often these people are not properly prepared or equipped.
Social Networks have opened up awareness of new places and new destinations which has created an illusion that it is all easy and suitable for everyone.
For this reason, in 2016 alone, there were 58 rescues in the Verona province and the majority of these were for excursionists who were incautious, unprepared and badly equipped.
To love the mountains means, therefore, to know them and use them wisely.
It means to be prepared and informed. It means that you put essential things in your rucksack such as a head torch and a first aid kit. It means that you follow weather forecasts but also understand how to interpret signs that show how the weather is evolving locally. It means being able to read a topographical map, use geographical coordinates for the place you are in, to be able to assess the risks of a situation, to never go off a marked path and above all to know when to turn back.
Thanks, Roberto, and thanks to all alpine rescuers. Thanks for always being there for us and for the work that you do. Angela