Map and compass leads ambulance crews to heart of the woods

Friday, 24 January, 2014

HART at exercise


Specialist ambulance crews abandoned modern gadgets in a challenge that saw them take a map and compass through woods during a night-time exercise.

The training was done by the hazardous area response team (HART) from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) on Wednesday night (January 22) in Hertfordshire.

The team gathered at Tolmers Scout Camp in Cuffley and were tasked with finding three teenagers who had been out camping when one of them suffered serious burns from an exploding camping stove. Using grid references from their patient’s mobile phone, they could pinpoint a location using ordnance maps and plan a route to move as quickly and safely as possible, using an all-terrain Polaris vehicle, covering an area of around five kilometres. 

Gary Perkiss, HART Team Leader, said the exercise went really well: “Due to the darkness and bad weather, the ground conditions were extremely difficult so the team were really tested, and they were out there for around two-and-a-half hours.

“We try to make these exercises as realistic as possible because if this was a real-life scenario we could use GPS mapping units but can’t always rely on a signal so these skills can be extremely useful.”

The ambulance service has two HART bases covering the whole of the east of England, in Melbourn and Great Notley. The teams are highly skilled and can work in difficult environments allowing them to provide emergency patient care faster at the scene of a major incident or hazardous environments, confined spaces or trapped at height.

Historically, treating such patients could only happen after they were brought away from a scene, usually by fire and rescue officers. But the introduction of HART by the Department of Health has meant the ambulance service can provide specialist training and extra clinical skills alongside emergency service colleagues to  reach and treat patients much earlier and thus improving chances of good patient outcomes.   

More information about the HART team can be found at

See aHART training video at

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