Arapiles Rescue Locations
Zoe Wilkinson who is the Area Chief Ranger Wimmera and who is a climber herself, recently put together this article to explain the new Rescue locations system that has been put in place at Mt Arapiles. Whilst we hope of course that this doesn’t have to be used, the reality is that at some point an accident will happen, and knowing the best way to report this can save vital time when it comes to emergency services accessing the injured.
Climbers might know where an area is, but expecting emergency services to, without any point of reference is a tricky one. Arapiles now has it’s own system that relates to climbs and staging points rather than the standard Emergency markers that are at many other parks and coastal areas. Take the time to acquaint yourself and then print off a copy. And pass it on.
Improving emergency response
Rock climbing accidents at Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park
by Zoe Wilkinson – Climber, VCC Member and Parks Victoria Area Chief Ranger Wimmera
Do you know what to do if you have a climbing accident at Mount Arapiles that requires an ambulance and cliff rescue?
· Call Triple Zero 000 – clearly stating the need for an Ambulance AND Cliff Rescue
· Tell operator:
– Accident location – Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park
– Name of the climb (For example:- Spellbinder),
– Climbing Area Name (For example:- Pharos Gully Right Side)
– If known, name of nearest vehicular access point (For example:- Pharos Gully Carpark)
· If possible send someone to the nearest vehicular access point to meet and direct the paramedics and other responding emergency agencies. These may include SES, CFA, VicPolice and Parks Victoria.
The emergency response problem
Rock climbing accidents requiring an ambulance to Mount Arapiles are fortunately uncommon. When they occur, Triple Zero 000 operators are likely to ask for information to verify the location of the incident to guide the ambulance. This may include the names of the nearest road intersection, the co-ordinates of the incident if known, the name of the climb and the name of the climbing area (eg Pharos Gully).
This is the standard way that the operators at Triple Zero 000 (ESTA – The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority) locate an incident. While effective for road traffic incidents, having the responding paramedic directed to the intersection of Summit Road and Centenary Park Road at Mount Arapiles is not going to be a great help in locating a climber having fallen off ‘Snow Blind’, for example, in the bottom of Yesterday Gully.
All too often the responding paramedics and emergency services providing cliff rescue have to drive around at Mount Arapiles until hopefully they come across the location of the accident or bump into someone who knows where the accident has happened. This is at best frustrating and at worst potentially a matter of life and death for the individual if they are suffering critical injuries.
Emergency Markers – Useful but not considered the best solution for Arapiles
Emergency Markers (managed by ESTA) with a code (see picture below) on them that link to co-ordinates back in the ESTA 000 databases are one response to this problem. You may have seen them in Melbourne, such as around the Botanic Gardens running track ‘The Tan’, or along the Victorian coast where they are used quite extensively. If someone collapses on ‘The Tan’ running track you simply quote the code of the nearest Emergency Marker to the operator when you call 000 and the ambulance will know exactly where to go. There is also an Emergency Marker at the Burnley Bouldering Wall in Richmond
A better solution – Using Climbing Area Names to guide rescue
Detailed location information already exists – the name of the climb and the climbing area itself, as listed in the commonly used rock climbing guide books and on online sites such as ‘The Crag’. Telling any climber who knows Mount Arapiles that there has been an accident up at ‘Beautiful Possibilities’ on ‘Central Gully Left Side’ is as good as giving them a precise GPS co-ordinate. The climber knows exactly where the nearest road access point is for the responding ambulance – at the top of the Pines – and how to get to the accident site from there. The challenge is conveying that knowledge, via the ESTA 000 centralised dispatch system, through to the paramedics and other responding agencies.
So Parks Victoria has been working on an innovative but common sense solution based on a good understanding of how climbers use Arapiles. The aim is to use existing climbing area names, to improve climbing accidents rescue response at Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park. Co-ordinates and names for 57 climbing areas (For example:- Pinnacle Face, Left Watchtower Face, New Image Wall, The Organ Pipes ) and 13 nearest vehicular access points (officially called Rescue Staging Points, for example Pharos Gully Carpark – see Map) have now been collected and uploaded to the ESTA 000 database (as part of the state-wide Common Place Names geo-dataset).
All emergency response and rescue organisations – Victoria Police (who under the Emergency Management Act are legislatively in charge of all rescues in Victoria), Ambulance Victoria, the SES Horsham (which includes members of the former local Arapiles Rescue Group), CFA, ESTA (Triple Zero 000) and Parks Victoria – have been involved and informed about this process. Documentation and maps for incident management purposes have now been completed.
Kieran Loughran (local climber and longstanding local rescue group member) has updated ‘The Crag’ (https://www.thecrag.com/climbing/australia/arapiles) to include a specific reference to the climbing area names that has been used in the ESTA Triple Zero 000 database (For example:- Emergency Location – Voodoo Area, Mount Arapiles). Maps and information for climbers on what to do in case of an accident have been made available on the new Visitor Information Boards and in the Toilet Block at Mount Arapiles.
The final step has been the installation at Mount Arapiles of normal low-key park signage (see below) clearly identifying the 13 nearest vehicular access points (Rescue Staging Points) for all 3000 climbs at all 57 climbing areas. The primary aim of these signs is to confirm the location for the responding paramedics and emergency agencies without being too intrusive. On a normal day to day basis the signs will help orientate visitors in the park.
Now the new system is in place, following the notification process at the beginning of this article should lead to a more informed response from emergency services. The next unfortunate climbing accident will test the system and hopefully benefit from improved emergency response times. We would like to be waiting a long time to test it.