Rescue team appeals over negative online messages

Rescue team appeals over negative online messages

17 February 2021

THE Mourne Mountain Rescue Team has appealed to be people who post social media comments about those who get into difficulty in the mountains to be careful about what they say.

A wide range of comments were posted last weekend after the rescue team revealed that volunteers went to the assistance of three walkers who became disorientated in poor visibility above Ben Crom Dam on Saturday evening.

The rescue team has warned that negative criticism may deter people from seeking help and, as a result, make a bad situation much worse.

The request for help last Saturday was made shortly before 7.45pm after the trio who ventured into the mountains got into difficulty.

A rescue team coordinator was able to get a fix on the position of the walkers using phone technology and direct them towards the Hare’s Gap, while a response crew set out to meet them. 

Having negotiated a very icy descent from the Hare’s Gap, the party met team responders on the Trassey Track. While very cold and tired, the walkers were otherwise unharmed.

The trio were subsequently transported by a rescue team vehicle to rendezvous with the walkers’ family members for transport home. 

Four team members responded to the call for help and were stood down at 10pm, while during the incident a number of others remained on standby.

Following the incident which came after heavy snow showers last Saturday, the rescue team issued a reminder that winter conditions prevail in the Mournes and will continue to present a challenge that should not be underestimated in the days and weeks ahead, urging people to “plan carefully, be prepared, stay safe and be adventure smart”.

Turning to the myriad of social media comments posted in the wake of the incident, the rescue team explained that it posts details of its call-outs on Facebook to raise awareness of what it does and to educate and help sustain its fundraising efforts.

The organisation said there is “considerable public interest” in mountain rescue, particularly from the outdoors community, with many people passionate about the mountains, safety and the rescue team.

“We understand that there will always be a range of opinion and debate is an integral part of social media,” said the rescue team’s post.

“However, at the heart of every rescue we engage in is at least one human being who has, more often than not, already had a very testing experience by the time they encounter us. We often pass on advice to the people we rescue, but kindness and respect are cornerstones of what we do. 

“Negative criticism that may deter people from seeking help early and make a bad situation much worse will not make our work any easier, and could increase risk to people in the mountains.”

The rescue team is appealing to people to “think carefully” before commenting on the organisation’s social media posts. 

“Remember that we are all human, we all have moments of vulnerability and we all make mistakes,” the post continues. “When any of us do need support and guidance, personalised criticism and abusive or offensive language does not help. 

“As volunteers, we willingly put in thousands of hours every year and we know that our Facebook followers recognise that commitment. Having to spend additional hours, often after a challenging rescue, moderating Facebook comments is no help to us or to the people we support.”

The rescue team has also revealed that it is reviewing the settings on its Facebook page to help manage this better.

“Like so many things in life, the key to making it easier and more positive is in how we choose to interact. So please, be kind, reflect on what you choose to say and how you say it and remember the humans behind the posts, the rescued and the rescuers,” said the post.

The rescue team added: “There will be a range of opinion on this very subject, much of which has already been aired. On this occasion, we politely ask you to reflect, rather than react. #BeKind.”