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years of rescue
Graeme Cheal has been involved since 1962 in rescuing people who get into difficulties climbing the Glasshouse Mountains. In that same year, the Rover Scouts formed the Mountain Rescue Group in response to requests for assistance from the local police. In 1969, the group received a Bravery Valour Award after a particularly dangerous rescue.
In the early yeIn 1980 the Mountain Rescue Group became part of the State Emergency Service. Mr Cheal has been leader of the Mountain and Vertical Rescue group since 1983. In the early years, the group tackled three or four mountain rescues annually. Rescues now number eight or nine each year. Most of these involve some sort of injury like a twisted ankle or broken bone. Others involved finding a disorientated person who had become lost.
“Mobile phones make it easier to get help if you get into strife”, said Mr Cheal. “In the early days, you had to leave the injured person, get down the mountain and usually call out to a farmer. They rang the police, the police rang us and then we would ring each other. The rescues were always after dark. You were usually also bringing someone down the mountain with broken bones or major injuries.”
“More people are climbing the mountains now. Lots of people are climbing that aren’t suited to it. They climb up, lose their nerve and get stuck on the mountain. It’s always easier to climb up then it is to climb down. We then have to go up and talk them down.” Said Mr Cheal.
Mr Cheal also believes that lifestyle programs on television are inducing more people to give climbing a try. The group and in particular Mr Cheal, has received a number of accolades over the years, including the 1995 Australia Day Achievement Medallion, the National Medal in 1997, a Bravery Award in 1998 and Group Bravery Citation in 2002. This year Mr Cheal was awarded the Emergency Services Medal.
“You don’t do these things for the gongs,” said Mr Cheal. “But it’s nice to be noticed.”
“I’m extremely proud that in the 43 years that we’ve been doing mountain rescues, we have never had a rescuer injured or caused further injury to a rescuee,” he said. This is also a testament to the training that those involved in vertical rescue undergo on a continual basis.
We should all remember that the people who help us out when we are in trouble are volunteers and are also putting themselves at risk.
“Be fully prepared,” advises Mr Cheal, “Take a phone with you and let people know where you are going. Footwear is an issue. We’ve had people try to climb in thongs, which is fairly stupid. If you’re not confident enough- don’t do it. Don’t start climbing late in the afternoon, start early in the day and give yourself plenty of time. We had to rescue one bloke fairly recently who attempted to climb the mountain after a day at the beach in a pair of shorts and thongs. He spent a cold night with the mossies before we found him early in the morning.”
Mr Cheal Stresses that it’s not just the climbers that are involved in rescues. The Beerwah branch of the SES has a crew of 30, of which 13 are accredited vertical rescue specialists. Everyone plays a role in a rescue. Those involved in communications are especially important.
Getting people down off mountains are not the only things the SES is involved in. S.E.S also do roof-tarping after storms, assist in police searches, road damage and cleaning up after storms.
Those in the SES need a wide range of skills. They also need to be people who are willing to give back to their community. It is something Mr Cheal does in spades. When he is not working his farm near Beerwah or involved with the SES, Mr Cheal is assisting with the Rural Fire Brigade, the Apex club, or helping to organise the Beerwah Charity Sports Day. He has been involved with this charity event for the past 30 years.
The ever-humble Mr Cheal said, “Someone has to do it.”
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