Volunteer profile – Chris Griffiths

Name: Chris Griffiths, NEWSAR Team Leader

How long have you been in the team?

I joined NEWSAR in 2010, but my first involvement with MR was in the Ogwen Valley way back in 1968 when I was staying in the Birmingham Outdoor Education Centre at Ogwen Cottage. I was again involved with MR in the 1980’s when working at the Shropshire OEC at Arthog, on the flank of Cadair Idris. At the time OEC’s were often the rescue teams in their areas.

What have you learned while being a member?

Lots of skills and techniques but most significantly, that we are a group that looks after each other, a group that trusts each other and a group who has a determination and resolve that I have never encountered before. There are arguments, there is laughter and there are tears, but once the callout comes everyone works together to get the best possible outcome for those who rely upon us. Wonderful.

Worst and best aspects of being in the team.

Best aspects are the camaraderie and the sense of achievement when we help people, especially if they are badly injured, lost or suffering with mental illness. As Team Leader I get great satisfaction watching our members grow in confidence and competence. It is a privilege to be the Team Leader but in reality NEWSAR members do not need ‘leading’, they know what needs doing and how to do it.
Worst aspect is when we ‘stand down’ without a find, closure is important for everyone.

Do you have any stand out moments, good or bad?

My first ‘find’ on a missing person search for an elderly gentleman living with dementia. He had been missing overnight in freezing weather and when I found him I was relieved he was in good health. He then had a ‘go’ at me for being late to take him to the pub! Smiles all around.

Permanent link to this article: https://newsar.org.uk/2021/06/volunteer-profile-chris-griffiths/

Volunteer profile – Dani Burgess

How long have you been in the team?

I have been a member of NEWSAR for 9 years, joining in 2012.

What you do outside NEWSAR (work and other hobbies)?

Anything outdoors, mainly horses and sailing. I also enjoy paddle boarding, cycling and long walks with my dogs. I love to travel and explore new places. I work as a Sports Therapist

Has this been transferred into NEWSAR?

My work as a Sports Therapist makes me a very empathetic person which I think transfers well into the team when dealing with casualties. I also love being part of a team and I’m very sociable.
I enjoy being part of the Swift and Floodwater Rescue team and also the Casualty Care group.

What have you learned while being a member?

I’ve learnt a lot about all aspects of being a team member. Areas like navigation, missing person search, radio communications, casualty care, technical rope rescue, water rescue and working with helicopters. I love being part of a big family and supporting each other is fantastic.

Worst and best aspects of being in the team.

Worst part of the team is getting a call out in the middle of the night when it’s raining and blowing a gale, then having to get out of a warm bed!
The best part is the feeling you get after you have helped someone, knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
Hardest part is the suicides and body recoveries or when you just never find that missing person and they are still out there somewhere because you feel for their families.

What is your most memorable event during your time with the team?

Searching on Christmas Eve night and through to Christmas Day alongside Boris the trailing search dog and Steve his handler. Luckily the missing person was found alive and it all ended well. I had Christmas lunch and spent the rest of the day asleep in front of the fire. Another memorable event for me was getting a ride in an RAF Sea king around Trearddur Bay on my own whilst the rest of the team was waiting to be winched as part of their training!

Permanent link to this article: https://newsar.org.uk/2021/06/volunteer-profile-dani-burgess/

Volunteer Profile – Damon

How long have you been in the team?

Team Member for 15 years.

What you do outside NEWSAR (work and other hobbies)?

I joined NEWSAR with a background in Climbing and Caving (I’m also a member of Cave Rescue). I love being outdoors in the hills and love anything to do with water and swimming.

I’m a Health, Safety and Environmental Manager for Tata Steel so all these skills are useful in my roles in NEWSAR.

What have you learned while being a member?

I’ve learnt so much since joining, from improving my rope skills, water rescue skills, navigation and casualty care. I’ve since become a first aider at work after getting this confidence via NEWSAR.
I am a NEWSAR First Responder and Search Manager, which involves the first contact with the Police to decide and plan on how the team can best be deployed. I’ve previously held operational management roles to help form the direction of the team.

I love being part of NEWSAR and the mountain rescue family and it has become a major part of my life. Teamwork and professionalism is essential to the smooth operation of the team. The disruption to normal life can be frustrating and tiring at times, but the benefits far outweigh this. My family and work are very supportive of this.

Worst and best aspects of being in the team.

We at times get involved in difficult and sad call outs – missing persons who sadly do not survive and being part of the Search Manager group in the April Jones case is a particular lasting memory. However even the sad ones we feel we help bring closure to bereaved families.

Many of our casualties and families are incredibly thankful to us in their hour of need and it’s very humbling to be thanked for our efforts, when often we are doing what we love. Many people don’t know we’re all volunteers with normal lives, so we make a point of letting people know to help spread the word and ensure we can get support in the future.

I know I’ve made a difference, even knowingly saved some lives, but the excuse to be outside in the hills or elsewhere whilst also helping someone is a major factor in why we all love doing this.


Permanent link to this article: https://newsar.org.uk/2021/06/volunteer-profile-damon/

Volunteer Profile – Becky

How long have you been in the team?

I have been a member of NEWSAR (and its previous incarnation Clwyd Rescue Team) for about 33 years. (Editors note… yep 33 years, you did read that right!)

What have you learned while being a member?

I am currently an operational team member, Search Manager and First Responder and also an elected Trustee but have undertaken many other roles over the years including Secretary and Deputy Team Leader.

Having been a team member for so long, I have seen many changes. When I was first called out it was through a phone tree, then pagers and now it’s by text and email. Our first team vehicle was a trailer which was used as Control, now we have a dedicated control vehicle, two Landrovers and a vehicle for water equipment. Clothing has changed considerably too. The first team jumper was a navy woolly jumper, now we have “proper” top to toe kit.

The one thing that hasn’t changed though, and always makes me so proud to be a NEWSAR volunteer, despite the disagreements (as happens in all kinds of teams), is the way we all come together Cont…. to help a stranger in need, regardless of the situation, time of day and weather.

People are often surprised to hear that we don’t just get called out to mountain incidents. We do a lot in the community too. It could be to assist the emergency services during snow or flood events or search for missing people with dementia or who want to harm themselves.

Worst and best aspects of being in the team.

Throughout all these, I have experienced “good” callouts, where casualties are happy to see us and we are able to give medical assistance and help get them off the hill. I have experienced “bad” ones too. We might have been too late to help, or I don’t really understand how or why an incident happened. The thing I struggle with most though is meeting family members as a search manager and not being able to give them the outcome that they want most of all. There is the small comfort that we have helped bring some sort of closure though.

The time commitment for a NEWSAR volunteer is huge. In addition to the callouts, we have weekly training sessions, regular fundraising events and then there are the background roles that are rarely acknowledged. These can include Topic Groups who create our standard operating procedures and carry out training in various areas, those who keep our equipment, vehicles and base in tip top condition, the Ops and Trustees who keep the team on course and those who represent NEWSAR across North Wales and nationally.

Permanent link to this article: https://newsar.org.uk/2021/06/volunteer-profile-becky/

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