Voluntary mountain rescue teams in England and Wales are independent charities whose membership consists of highly trained volunteers who are called out by the police (who are responsible for land based search and rescue but generally lack the resources to undertake the function). Individual teams are normally known as an MRT (Mountain Rescue Team) but some use the term SRT (Search & Rescue Team) or MS&RT (Mountain Search & Rescue Team).
Individual teams are members both of the MR (E&W) and their regional association (which is also represented at MR (E&W)). Neither MR (E&W) or the regional associations have authority over the individual teams but provide an opportunity to discuss and agree standards, training and equipment. MR (E&W) does provide some equipment funding for MRTs both from its own funds and a small government grant, but teams have to finance their own running costs through charity fund raising or sponsorship. MRTs in England and Wales receive no direct government funding. The government also provides access by teams to Ordnance Survey mapping.
The Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service has four teams—two in Scotland, one in England and one in Wales—and as part of the military is wholly government funded. They have primary responsibility for aircraft crashes on high ground, but also respond to civilian calls for assistance with hikers and climbers.
Although the primary focus of mountain rescue is to locate and evacuate injured and/or lost persons in upland environments, teams also undertake a wide range of roles (which may differ from team to team):
missing person searches in lowland areas where access or terrain is difficultsupport to NHS ambulance services for difficult casualty evacuationsupport to government agencies/emergency services in flood and heavy snowfallsupport to government agencies/emergency services at major incidentsswift water rescueanimal rescue
Urban search and rescue is currently undertaken by the fire and rescue services as part of their statutory enablement, but at least one mountain rescue team has chosen to train in this field.
Each team has its own primary area of responsibility but frequently deploy outside these areas in support of other teams.
Cave rescue had its own umbrella organisation, the British Cave Rescue Council, but some teams operate as both cave rescue teams and mountain rescue teams.
There is also an association for Search & Rescue dogs at the national and regional level called the National Search & Rescue Dog Association (SARDA). SARDA handlers must be full team members of a mountain rescue team and, once graded, will operate alongside that team, but can be deployed in support of other teams.