A MOUNTAIN rescue team is operating with a new digital radio system thanks to a donation of £24,500.

The Grand Mark Benevolent Fund, the national charity of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, made the donation to Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team after a bid was supported by the Stokesley-based Cleveland Lodge.

The team decided to modernise its communications by moving to a digital platform in 2021, in order to provide a reliable future-proofed radio system, compatible with other rescue teams and organisations.

Having scoped out the requirements in a project led by IT officer Rob Adams, the team compared different radios and took advice from their umbrella organisation, Mountain Rescue England and Wales, and other teams.

Cleveland’s ageing VHF analogue radios have now been replaced by 50 modern Hytera VHF digital radios, with the Masons' donation covering the cost. There are also four mobile radios – one in each of the team’s three operational vehicles and one kept at its base – plus eight "repeater" radio handsets which help to extend radio coverage.

The new Hytera radios can still operate on VHF analogue channels but following weeks of testing and training the team has recently migrated to using them in VHF digital mode as intended. This brings a number of added benefits which will be gradually rolled-out in the coming months such as the ability to track team members remotely and, in time, to transmit data, such as photographs of missing people or maps of search areas.

Peter Smith, Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team leader, welcomed the substantial donation from the Mark Master Masons and reinforced the contribution this equipment will make in updating the team’s capability.

He added: "All our rescues and searches rely on effective communications and this digital VHF network gives us a stand-alone system that operates whatever the weather or national infrastructure status, so ensuring continuity of our operations and safety for the public we assist."