Images by Ian Linton Photography
You hope it is never you, or anyone you know, but if you do have a spill off your bike it is good to know that there trained folk around that will sort you out and get you to the hospital in the best condition possible. Taking part in an event it is often taken for granted that there will be something in place, but not everywhere has the intimate local knowledge of the forests, trails and emergency access points that the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol and Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue have to support events such as Tweedlove and Selkirk MTB Marathon. We joined them for a joint exercise training evening where Matthew, store manager of Alpine Bikes at Glentress, had suffered an unfortunate fall taking part in a ‘Glentress 7’ race scenario…
“Marshal one, Bike Patrol One, we have an accident”
“Marshal one, Bike Patrol One” the radio crackles, “we have an accident about 100m below you, casualty has hit a tree, is conscious but complaining of back and neck pains. Request Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) assistance. Warn riders as they approach.” This initial call starts a chain of processes that are being exercised. Due to the nature of the course and the terrain, and areas of no mobile reception, maintaining accurate communications is an eternal battle with several people having to be in the reporting chain. With the message passed to Tweedlove Race Control and the MRT, there is a hive of activity both at the accident scene and event village. A third patroller from the Bike Patrol arrives and immediately takes an aggressive marshalling role – the first principle of first aid, DR ABC, is Danger. All the Tweed Valley Bike Patrollers are qualified mountain bike leaders, outdoor first aid qualified, some are also members of the MRT and all know the forests like the back of their hands. In a race situation such has been presented here, it is vital that not only the casualty is looked after but also the hundreds of other competitors. With CJ, also from Alpine Bikes, playing the part of a ‘focussed’ rider barrelling down the trail, the Bike Patrol have to be quite forceful to safely route him around the incident. Meanwhile, Tweedlove race control are frantically working out re-route options.
“The MRT are on their way“, is the comforting call from Race Control. With the casualty wrapped in a foil blanket, head immobilised and patrollers Phil and Ali demonstrating their best bedside manner, focus shifts to the MRT. Watching and listening to the teams spring into action is impressive. The first 4×4 Landrover is dispatched under the direction of the team in the command vehicle full of stretchers, oxygen, nurses and paramedics and is with the casualty in minutes few.
“Marshal one, Race Control. What is the rider number of the casualty?” Another important point comes out of this one radio call – in incidents such as this everyone is briefed to only communicate the rider number, in this case 212. This number is unique to that competitor and removes lots of potential confusion if ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ were to be passed instead. In addition, Neil (Tweedlove mastermind and race organiser), has rushed across the event village to the MRT control and has the full picture of who the casualty is, emergency contact details and medical history to help the MRT pass on the casualty to the ambulance service.
With the scene under control and the MRT applying a neck brace, attention shifts to the evacuation. Helicopter aid has been requested but denied and so a stretcher carry to the nearest forest road, some 150m and a fair climb above, is on the cards. Part of the evening’s training aims is for the Bike Patrollers to gain familiarity with the MRT kit; as such Ali and Phil get to grips with putting together and preparing the stretcher ready for Matt to be lifted into. This proves hugely beneficial for both parties and also showed how closely these two teams of dedicated people work together, understand each others roles and can vitally decrease the time a casualty is on the hill.
“Bike Patrol Two and Marshal One, Race Control”. “Go ahead”…. Now the race route has to be diverted and this is where Tweedlove having a team of people who know the forest inside out becomes immediately apparent. A diversion plan, including names of trails and Forestry Commission post numbers that would make no sense to most people, is passed. Within minutes marshals are re-deployed and ‘Bike Patrol Two‘, enjoying the speed that a bike gives of getting about, have the diversion set allowing the race to continue. This clears the route for a safe evacuation of the casualty whilst also allowing the event to continue, how the times differences will be managed is a point for the event organisers at a later date.
In less than an hour, Matt is in an ambulance. To watch these teams work together is quite humbling as the professionalism and care is so apparent yet they are all doing it at the cost of being at home with their families, riding their bikes or enjoying a cold beer on a stunning blue sky evening. But, it is not quite finished. A debrief, led by the MRT, brings up lessons for everyone involved, tweeks to procedures and gives Tweedlove some event management points to consider. Hopefully none of this will be required but, if it does during Tweedlove 2016, I feel in very safe hands.
Tweedlove organiser Neil Dalgleish said, “It was very useful to us as organisers to look at event medical incidents from a different angle, and learn how things work, or could go wrong, from the point of view of the MRT or Bike Patrol. One thing was very clear though, that having a group like the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol involved adds a hugely valuable, and very mobile, additional layer of event safety. The MRT do a brilliant job, but having the Bike Patrol involved, who know the woods and the trails so well, is a superb addition to the organisation.”
Both the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol and Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team are reliant on donations to keep providing this service to the community.
Tweedlove Bike festival starts in 2 weeks. You can find out more about this two week long festival here.