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Trail safety - Getting help in the hills 

What would you do if you were injured or lost when you are out running and needed to get help, and who would be coming to give that help? 

Trail running is a simple sport, but it could also be a simple slip or fall that could mean you are unable to get yourself home.  A nasty sprained ankle would be all it would take before you would need assistance to get off the trail. 

Who do you call? 

As with any emergency you would call, 999. If you are in an urban area, or in sight of a road, it makes sense to ask for an ambulance. If you are more that 10 minutes walk from a road you are probably going to need help from a Mountain Rescue team. In which case you should ask for the police as they coordinate all mountain rescue callouts. 

What information will they need

Who you are, what has happened and most importantly where you are. Use OS Locate to give a grid reference, this will include two letters and six numbers. 

What do you do if you don’t have a phone signal?

Mobile coverage is getting better all of the time, but there are still large areas without coverage. Your mobile supplier will have a coverage map that should give you some idea.

Screenshot 2023-05-20 at 15.34.07 
If you don’t have a phone signal there are other options, but first, what would happen if none of them worked?!!

Route card and late back procedure

If for some reason you were unable to make a call and were unable to get off the hill, how long would you have to wait before someone else raised the alarm? It is always a good idea to let someone know where you are running and what time you expect to return. A simple screenshot of a map, or a link to an online route is sufficient information. It is crucial that your home contact understands the process for calling 999 if you don’t make contact with them by your specified time. 

Other options if you don’t have a phone signal 

Whistle! Depending where you are, you might be able to get some help from others on the trail. 6 long blasts is the international distress signal, repeated every minute. 


For an emergency call, your mobile phone will roam onto any other available network, so even if you don’t appear to have a signal it is worth trying a call. 

999 text service 

It is possible to text 999. If you have poor signal or a low battery you may be able to send a text when you couldn’t make a call.  To use this service you need to pre-register your mobile phone number. DO THIS NOW: text the word REGISTER to 999, that is all you need to do. 

Garmin Incident detection & Strava beacon

It is possible to set up Garmin or strava (or other apps like Whatsapp) to share your location with a contact. Like a route card, this only works if that contact is engaged with watching out for you and knows what to do in case of an emergency. 

This relies on the mobile phone network to send, so is limited in it’s coverage. 

Garmin also has a crash detection feature that can automatically alert your emergency contact in case of a sudden impact.  

Personal locator beacons 

PLB’s come in a variety of forms, but their primary function is to provide a reliable, satellite based SOS function. If you need help you can press the big red button and a distress signal will be passed to local emergency services along with your personal details that you have to give when you register your device. They will then dispatch the appropriate rescue response. 

A simple SOS only device such as a McMurdo Fastfind will cost around £250 and has a battery that is guaranteed for 6 years.

Spot devices have the additional functions options of live tracking and 3 pre-set  messages that you can send to a home contact. For example “I’m running late, but everything is OK”.

A Garmin InReach Mini has these functions, plus the ability to type custom messages and also to receive messages back. 

Both the spot and Inreach have a cost to buy the unit, plus an ongoing monthly subscription. 

Although not cheap, they are well worth considering, particularly if you run solo into remote terrain where you may not have phone signal. 

Screenshot 2023-05-20 at 15.50.40

If you have found this information useful, please help us to share the message, it could save a life. 

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