Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Small Party Assisted Rescue Training - Texas 2017

Opening talk
 I recently spent 10 days in Texas to teach back-to-back Small Party Assisted Rescue (SPAR) classes for the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC). This all-volunteer organization wants to ensure that people have the best methods to get an injured, sick, or stuck caver out from the underground. Caves are one of the most difficult places to do a rescue, as passages can be tiny and convoluted, there's no way to get a short haul from a helicopter, GPS doesn't work, and there isn't any cell signal. Plus it's dark. And often wet. And sometimes deep.

The NCRC offers Levels 1 (Team Member), 2 (Team Leader), 3 (Advanced Rigging), and TOFE (Team Oriented Field Exercises) at weeklong seminars. These are all aimed at cave rescuers responding in big groups with lots of equipment. But what if you're really remote and don't have many people or gear? That's where Small Party Assisted Rescue (SPAR) comes in. We focus on rescue with minimal gear and people. That's the kind of rescues we'd need to do where I live. So I love it.

The Texas regional seminar offered Levels 1 and 2 as well as two SPAR classes. When we started at our classroom, under a pavilion, at the beginning of the week, it was cold! We had coats on and made sure we were in the sun. Fortunately the classroom part is only half a day and rather interactive, such as with splinting your partner with things from your cave pack.

 In the afternoon it was time for stations, when groups of four rotated through four stations. This one is releasable redirect, or in other words, how to get someone up and over the picnic table.

Traveling haul was another one. You can see the awe and amazement about learning this technique. (I seem to have caught a lot of funny expressions!)

Later it was time for minimal gear. How little gear do you need to climb a rope?

 The next day we went out to some cliffs. I was in charge of the crack and crevice portion, and we had a really cool place to practice.

The third and last day we had scenarios, and the students rotated through three caves, solving a problem in each. The instructors split up and stayed in the same cave each day, and it was really interesting to see the different ways students solved the problems. Below they've rigged a diminishing loop to a haul system that can be hauled by a climber, which we've nicknamed the Dragon.

It can be a little awkward. But essentially just one person can carry out the rescue as long as the patient is conscious and doesn't have too serious of injuries.

 We finished one class and started right after dinner with the next class. Fortunately the weather had warmed up, so the next day we were even able to go down to short sleeves. Below, students figure out how to convert-to-lower off bolts. In other words, a rope is connected to bolts, and someone gets stuck on it. How can you quickly get them off the weighted rope and lower them to the ground with another rope?

There's more than one way to do it! We always like to practice the scenarios first in a somewhat controlled environment (not far from the ground), then the next day we step it up at short cliffs or caves, and the last day the students have to figure out what method to use.

 Part of the training included an alpine single rope technique (SRT) course, with rebelays, J-hangs, and even a guided rappel. Your climbing system has to be well-adjusted to do the course efficiently.

The guided rappel was my favorite. You basically rappel diagaonally.

 On cliff day I was at the Dragon station. We drew out the rigging and talked about it, had a demo, and then the students got to try it for real.

 Another station was climbing and rappelling counterbalances, a slick technique that doesn't require a lot of people either.

 On scenario day, the instructors switched up caves. I was the "bat," or invisible instructor fluttering around and checking rigging. Another instructor was on the small party trip, and he unfortunately got injured (in the scenario).

The students figured out how to splint him and get him out with minimal gear.

 At the end of a very fun class we set up for a class photo. Except the students decided to run away.

Fortunately they came back again.
It was a really fun week with great people and nice caves. I learned a few new techniques and am re-energized to keep learning more about cave rescue. You can learn more about cave rescue at the NCRC website.

1 comment:

Carolyn James said...

It's fun to be a tall, strong woman, isn't it!

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