Cape Town - “We desperately want others to enjoy and experience the mountain the way we do, and we understand that at times accidents do happen, and we want to reassure people that there is this amazing group of people willing to drop everything and rush out to help.”
So said Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) spokesperson David Nel, who spoke about the heroic efforts of volunteers, and how, through the generosity of others, the organisation could assist with rescue operations.
WSAR is trying to raise funds for headsets, which help in conducting helicopter rescues.
The organisation’s Backabuddy campaign states that helicopters are used in roughly 30% of its operations, and how impossible it is to hear anything when a helicopter hovers above.
Until recently, rescuers had to rely on hand signals to communicate from the ground to the aircraft, but headsets would allow them to communicate clear information faster, which would ensure their teams and patients were safer during rescue operations, and would hasten moving patients from the scene to medical care.
Nel said: “We’re exclusively reliant on the generosity of the public. We don’t receive funding from any government agencies, there are no grants, and as you can imagine, keeping teams equipped is vital. Rope gets damaged frequently on rescues, and it's not cheap stuff, and as a result fundraising is critical in provision of a service like this.”
WSAR gets increasingly busy during the summer, as more people hike and participate in outdoor activities. Nel said a post-Covid-19 trend the organisation had seen was an increase in the number of rescues, but “it’s always difficult to assume or hypothesise as to why”.
“When we start running, late November into December, we’ll be running multiple incidents concurrently over weekends, if we just go off tracking the trend.
“We’re certainly expecting a busy season, obviously weather dependent, and this is why fundraising is so important; just ensuring that people are equipped and able to respond to these incidents.”
Nel was quick to downplay the call for funds, but instead wanted to shine a light on the rescuers who were often called to assist in an emergency.
“We do rely on the generosity of others, and we are incredibly grateful, but we are predominantly a team of volunteers who are passionate and dedicated to assisting,” he said.
Nel said that as everyone prepared for hikes, the best tips would be to ensure they were over-prepared.
“The best tips, as the seasons change, would be to always carry twice as much water as you think you need, dress appropriately for the activity, wear a hat, and put on sunblock,” he said.
“Plan for the unexpected. Cape Town has many seasons in one day. It gets extremely hot during summer, so dress accordingly, but also don’t take that rain jacket out of your backpack.”
If you need assistance, contact WSAR on 021 937 0300.
Those who wish to contribute towards WSAR’s equipment, can visit https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/sos-for-life-saving-equipment