DOZENS of rescue volunteers were last week called out to Delamere Forest by the modern flare - a text message.
Gathered at the rendezvous point at 7pm on Tuesday last week, members of Cheshire Lowland Search and Rescue team speculated about what they were to face for their training exercise, but none guessed the hypothetical dis-aster awaiting them.
In a briefing they learned a plane had crashed in the forest's Black Lake and sunk, leaving four or five casualties scattered across the area.
On its way down it had clipped a minibus filled with Scouts, which veered off the road, hitting a mountain biker and two motorcyclists.
The crash involved 19 casualties played by siblings, friends and neighbours of team members each covered in injuries made with cotton wool, food colouring and Vaseline.
'I always get the most glamorous jobs,' quipped one team member's brother as he passed his second hour lying 'unconscious' on the forest floor. 'Last time I was hit by a lorry.'
Members' first aid skills were tested as groups formed to cover each crash site, assessing the condition of each casualty and calling out Cheshire St John Ambulance to treat the most serious cases.
Backup came from members of Bolton Search and Rescue team and forest rangers.
'We wanted to create a scenario that would really push them, so we combined all our memories of working in the emergency services and came up with this,' said committee member and retired Merseyside police officer, Ray Milne.
Founder member Mark Jeffers, an accident and emergency nurse who started the team two years ago, added skills learned in the exercise could be called on in real life.
'Search and rescue teams from across the UK were called out to the Lockerbie plane bombing - you have to be prepared for anything.
'We started the team after the disappearance of the 17-year-old girl Shafilea Ahmed in Warrington exposed the fact that Cheshire didn't have its own search team.'
The team now has 30 members and has already been called out 11 times this year to search for missing people.
I had a brief taste of their work when, as a 'passer-by' I was called on to aid medics with computer-operated sim-man, a startlingly lifelike training dummy usually used in hospitals.
In this case, sim-man played a motorcyclist whose leg had been cut off in the collision with the van and was losing blood.
With no medical training, I was given a crash course in how to support 'his' head and neck.
Crouching next to the body I could see the stress the volunteer medics were under as they tried to remember their training and apply it in time to save the casualty.
Add to this the fact that teams can be searching for several days in all elements and you have to wonder why they put themselves through it.
'A lot of us have jobs in the medical field and want to use those skills to help people who find themselves in difficult situations,' said Mark.
He adds: 'Other people who are working in office jobs really want to get out and do something different with their spare time and see the search and rescue team as the best way to do that.'
* Cheshire Lowland Search and Rescue Team is looking for volunteers in Cheshire aged over 18, who can walk five miles in two hours. Call 01925 723806 for more details.