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 training and 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 MREW and their regional association (which is also represented at MREW). Neither MREW or the regional associations have authority over the individual teams but provide an opportunity to discuss and agree standards, training and equipment. MREW does provide some irregular equipment funding for MRTs, but teams have to finance their own running costs through charity fundraising or sponsorship. MRTs in England and Wales receive no government funding. An exception is the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service (United Kingdom), which is part of the military. The RAFMRS has primary responsibility for aircraft crashes on high ground, but also responds 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 difficult
support to NHS ambulance services for difficult casualty evacuation
support to government agencies/emergency services in flood and heavy snowfall
support to government agencies/emergency services at major incidents
Urban search and rescue is currently undertaken by the fire & rescue services as part of their statutory responsibilities, but at least one mountain rescue team has chosen to train in this field.
Each team has its own area of responsibility but can 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.
The MREW is a member of the International Commission for Mountain Rescue (IKAR - Internationale Kommisia fur Alpines Rettingwesen).