are some world-class caves that most people or
technical rescue teams have no idea about. These
caves are located on private land, and the typical
weekend warrior may not know about them. How
can you find out where and how many there are?
Identify your resources: Talk to cavers or local cave
rescue teams or find out if you have a grotto (caving
group) close to you. This should put you on the
Suggestion: If you don’t know the group, you
may want to be careful how you approach the
members. There is an old saying in caving, “
Cavers rescue cavers, not the fire department.” The
reason is because in the past, fire/rescue teams have
showed up to a cave rescue without much training
and pretty much “winged” it. There have also been
cases where there were qualified cave rescue personnel there who were trained in rescue, had a map of
the cave, and knew that specific cave like the back
of their hand, and fire-rescue personnel wanted
nothing to do with them. This may sound a bit
extreme, but I have seen it in action.
This may not be the case with your jurisdiction
ARE YOU CAPABLE?
or local caving group, but if you are going to get
information and form a good working relation-
ship, it is essential that you start by being respect-
ful. Most cave rescue groups have or have access to
maps of the caves you are interested in. This can be
critical when going in to make a rescue. They can
also teach you how to read the maps and identify
key landmarks. Most cavers who do mapping have
a pretty elaborate setup with multiple data layers
and sometimes overlays on Google maps. Not only
does this show you the cave, it also will show you
where the cave is in relation to the surface. This
can be important if you need to deploy mine rescue
techniques such as making a new entrance into the
cave or creating a tunnel to evacuate a victim.
The second consideration you should honestly
ask yourself is: Are you or your team capable of
performing a rescue in a cave? This question may
not be easily answered because, unlike most rescue
situations, depending on the cave it could take
days or as much as a week to safely get someone
out. Are you logistically set up for an underground
operation like that? Do you have specialized communications such as military-style hard wired communication devices to establish a network for crews
working underground to relay information to the
surface? Is there going to be rope work involved?
Can your crew ascend hundreds of feet of rope? Are
you planning on rigging your own rope, if required?
Is your rescue gear going to fit in the space? What
if your crews get wet? This last question may sound
crazy, but if you are wet in temperatures of 50°F
for hours on end with no sunlight, you may have
some cases of rescuer hypothermia in addition to
the victim’s needs.
Some caves may require water rescue or cave
diving skill sets because of running water, water-