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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Croatian Mountain Rescue Service: Saving Lives 365 Days A Year (Photos+Video)







Members of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service at the 2011 Zagreb FIS Ski World Cup Snow Queen Trophy races.





This was an interesting article I came across, and luckily most of the information is already written out for me, I just added some photos and videos. The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (Croatian: Hrvatska gorska služba spašavanja, HGSS) is a 365 days a year organization, but an important organization that saves lives. There are paid full-time members, but most are professionally trained volunteers ready to go at a moments notice. And it's much more than just mountains and ski hills in the winter time. I just briefly touched upon this topic at my post zagreb-snow-queen-trophy-at-sljeme.

There's always been a Croatian Mountain Rescue and Emergency Service, but it's training and presence has increased over the last few years especially. That's because many tourists that have been arriving in the summer have decided to opt for more excitement during their stay rather than just always the usual beach and swimming summer activities. The amount of websites focused on these activities has been growing yearly, and so the numbers of emergency calls has increased too. More people are joining in the quest for something out of the ordinary and more challenging, so mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking, hang gliding, kayaking, rafting, deep sea diving and descending into some of the many deep caves has become very popular, the Velebit caves and Paklenica National Park especially. (Some good images of one of these deep caves that came out after doing this post at www.telegraph.co.uk)

The problem though is that many don't prepare or plan or take the necessary precautions, some even temporarily think that they've become superhero characters, able to climb cliffs and descend into caves like Batman, Spiderman or Ironman, or in some cases like Aquaman, unaffected by dangerous slips and falls, impervious to the elements and weather changes or they even just simply get lost. It's happened a number of times over the past few years. Every year the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service stage approximately 450 rescue missions and save around 500 people. (A plain ol' map and compass can do wonders when the cell phone battery dies and there's no more GPS. Plus when the zombie apocalypse happens and the internet and cellular networks are all down, you'll thank me because you'll be able to find the safety caves and make a fire)

Well, that's what the HGSS is there for, be it on the mountains, cliffs, in caves, underwater...spring, summer, winter or fall. They have also worked at times with the Croatian military, especially in the summer of 2014 when there was major regional flooding, as well as forest fires and major snow storms if they occur. If anything, it's good to know that the members of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service are there to save the day. Anyway, most of the information is below and at the links, the images are mostly from www.facebook.com/HrvatskaGSS and the CMRS official website is www.gss.hr......

(Update -just a few days after doing this post, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service won a Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award at the 2015 Higgins & Langley Memorial Awards for outstanding achievement during last year’s floods, which is supposed to be a pretty prestigious recognition and award supposedly, so that's good to know. I'll probably do another post down the road but with just a bunch of interesting photos)



Related: wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatian_Mountain_Rescue_Service

www.sljeme.hr

www.vipsnowqueentrophy.com

croatians-girls-climb-to-top-of-mt-everest

zagreb-snow-queen-trophy-at-sljeme

croatian-helicopters-rescue-services-military-assisting-floods

www.hgsszd.hr

www.hps.hr

www.stipebozic.com

www.youtube.com/user/Hrvatskagss

Images: www.facebook.com/HrvatskaGSS

Official website: www.gss.hr






Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, Always Prepared For Action At A Moments Notice








Text source: Source: www.total-croatia-news.com


Interview with Stipe Božić

With peak season behind us, most tourist workers are slowly looking at their numbers, reading arrival and overnight stay statistics, but one service that never has a single day off is the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. Our national non-profit organisation that is always there to help tourists and locals alike and they have proven their exceptional skills thousands of times. One of their most famous members, Croatian mountaineer, journalist, documentary film-maker, photographer and writer Stipe Bozic, found time for a quick chat and of course, the first thing I wanted to know is the overview of this summer. Were there more or fewer interventions and are the tourists better prepared than before?





The interview in this post is with Stipe Božić, a legendary Croatian mountaineer, documentary filmmaker, photographer and writer. (Božić completed the Seven Summits and is the second European, after Reinhold Messner, to climb the highest peak in the world twice, Mount Everest in 1979 and 1989) Božić has been volunteering for the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service for more than 30 years and is currently the head of its Split branch.








As the number of tourists is increasing so is the number of interventions, that is a matter of pure statistics. Profile of our tourists is changing and they are no longer satisfied with the “sun and sea” holiday, they want adventure and there's no better way to experience adventure than to head out to our beautiful mountains, rivers and caves. I must admit, they are better prepared than before but still, accidents happen. And when they do, we are there to help them, no matter where they are in Croatia and no matter whether they are wearing flip-flops or if they are fully equipped experienced climbers.










Over the last few years there were many educational programmes, some countries such as the Czech Republic even issued pamphlets for their citizens travelling to Croatia to help them prepare in case they were planning on mountaineering in Croatia. Does this help prevent more serious accidents?

We organize countless workshops throughout the year, we've published maps, pamphlets and information sheets on many different languages for tourists to let them know that Croatian mountains, rivers and lakes are just as demanding as any and that they should be well prepared and equipped before they embark on any sort of outdoor adventure. Unfortunately, even that cannot prevent accidents like the one we had yesterday on Paklenica which claimed one life. But when accidents do happen, all tourists can be sure that we will answer their call wherever they may find themselves.












Many of these search and rescue operations are very dangerous, demanding in terms of necessary equipment and number of team members and, I must say, quite costly. Every year we hear that anyone that uses your services should in the end pay for it, but nothing is happening in that department. Why?

Well, there's nothing much we can do about that. We are a civil organization, all our members are volunteers and we do not have the authority to issue invoices for our services. Then there is also another problem if I may call it that. When we are performing an air rescue, we have to use Croatian Air Force helicopters, and there is simply no way anyone can issue an invoice for their use since they are owned by the military. I have to say that most of the people we've rescued in our interventions are insured, both tourist and locals, but those insurance claims can never be closed because of this administrative problem. We try not to think of it at all, we never go out on a rescue thinking whether the person is insured or not. Every call is equally important.













Back to the helicopters. You are currently using the Croatian Air Force ones because they are the only ones available. Are they equipped for your needs and what is happening with the current plan by the Ministry of Health to acquire helicopters for medical emergencies?

Air force teams have done a tremendeous job of jelping us all these years, but to be perfectly honest, their helicopters are just too big and not equipped well enough for medical emergencies. Yes, the Ministry of health is in the process of acquiring helicopters for medical emergencies and we gave them our recommendation regarding which supplier they should use and which models to look at. But that is where the story ends. Now they're trying to push us out of the story and we don't know whether we will have the right to use them. I don't know why this is happening and who will use them in the end, since we are the only ones, along with professional medical teams, that are qualified for air rescue.
















You have first hand knowledge of how similar services work abroad since you had a medical problem during one of your alpine expeditions in Austria few years ago. What is their payment procedure?

Their Mountain Rescue Service has the authority to issue invoice, unlike ours. So after the whole extraction process and hospitalization, I received a bill for services rendered which I was more than happy to pay since I owe them my life.








The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service logo flag at the summit of Mount Everest. More info at a post HERE.






How many team members does the Croatian Mountain Rescue have at the moment?

We have about 800 members across Croatia and that includes doctors, mountaineers, search dog teams, search managers, water rescuer, cavers, all of them finished our extensive training programmes and they are highly qualified for all search and rescue operations in every corner of Croatia. Anyone can reach us by dialing 112, and because of the fantastic coöperation with the 112 dispatch centres, we are the fastest service you can count on 24 hours a day 7 days a week come rain come shine.





Some behind the scenes and training exercise footage, more videos at www.youtube.com/user/Hrvatskagss.









This footage was interesting. Klek mountain is almost 4000 feet high and has a very steep vertical cliff which has made it a very popular destination for rock climbers. (Legend has it that during a stormy night, witches, wizards and fairies from around the world gather on Mt. Klek and their wheel dance and screams can be heard all the way to the town of Ogulin) You don't want to fall or get stuck there that's for sure.







Actual real footage of how the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service saved Christmas in 2014.







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