Mountain Rescue Team forced to use parking enforcement company to keep emergency access clear after van blocks garage door

North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (“NDSART”) responds to 999 emergency calls from its rescue base in Exeter Road Industrial Estate, Okehampton. These callouts, which can happen at any time, day or night and in any weather condition, start with local team members hurrying to the centre to collect vehicles containing vital life-saving equipment.

The service provided by this team of volunteer rescuers is often the only hope, as ambulance services and even helicopters are often unable to reach the less accessible parts of Dartmoor due to the terrain and weather conditions. Even off Dartmoor, the Police or Ambulance Service can call very quickly on the team’s highly trained members to search for high-risk or vulnerable missing people before they come to harm.

The Team moved to the current building in 2017 and ever since has had low-level issues with unauthorised parking in its car park and access. Unfortunately, the situation has escalated over the last few years and on occasions, a large number of illegally parked or abandoned vehicles have blocked the parking and access to the rescue centre. The team is understandably worried that this number will increase with the opening of the Okehampton Interchange railway station.

A spokesperson from the Team commented Four weeks ago, the parking situation came to a head: we were responding to a 999 call for an injured person but found a van parked right in front of the roller door and completely blocking the exit. Team members couldn’t get the vehicles out to respond to the call! Five to ten valuable minutes were lost trying to find the owner of the van and to get them to move it out of our way.

After this, we knew we had to do something to prevent this ever happening again, so, whilst it is deeply saddening for us as a Team, we feel we have no choice but to use a parking company to help us keep our access and parking clear.

The Team say that the parking contractor has been chosen very carefully: “We are a part of this community and we would rather not be going down the enforcement route. We have carefully selected a professional parking management company, who have agreed to start their enforcement gently by issuing warning tickets. This gives people a chance to change their behaviour before any parking charge notices are issued. Ultimately, we need to keep our parking and access clear so in the next week or two the parking restrictions will start to be enforced.”

Callouts can happen at any time, and if local, up to 30 responders may arrive by car at the rescue centre, so being able to park and access the team’s emergency vehicles is vital. Last year the team responded to 34 incidents, with members giving up over 8,500 hours of their own time responding to and training for emergency calls. The Team receives no government funding and relies on the generosity of the public to meet its operating expenses.

The Team spokesman finished by saying, “We are sure that the majority of responsible drivers in our community will support us. Every second counts in an emergency! Illegal parking, blocking entrances or exits and poor parking in streets cause significant delays to all emergency service vehicles. You never know when you may need the help of emergency services. The next life we save could be yours.