Sunday, July 15, 2018

Orientation to Cave Rescue, Oak City, Utah

In June I helped teach a two-day Orientation to Cave Rescue class for the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) in Oak City, Utah. This class introduces cavers and first responders to cave rescue terminology and techniques. (The recent cave rescue in Thailand would be the other end of the spectrum--the super complex and technical rescue.)

We started with part of the day in the classroom at the Oak City Community Center. Then we moved out to the pavilion to practice some patient packaging.

I noticed that in the Thai cave rescue they were using SKEDs just like this one, except a different color. SKEDs are good litters for small spots, as you basically wrap a person so they look like a burrito.

The nearby playground gave us a perfect opportunity to practice moving the litters. We had obstacles, but many of the "cave walls" were invisible, making communications much easier than in a real cave. Students still had to follow the "cave passage," though, which included belly crawling and climbing and sliding down slides.

The second day was a full day mock rescue. I was to be an "angel," or observer for one of the patients. My job was to make sure he was safe. We headed to the cave ahead of the students, geared up, and headed into the little hole.

The students had three patients to find, and Rodney was the furthest back in the cave. It didn't take them too long to find him and start doing a medical assessment. They realized they would need a litter to carry him out.

The litter came and they packaged him in it. Since it was such a warm cave, he didn't want the full packaging of a vapor barrier (tarp) and two blankets.

After a bit, it was time to start moving him towards the entrance.

It took lots of coordination to get him out of the small pit and to the next team that moved him forward. Rodney is checking to make sure that I'm getting some photos. :)

Then came more obstacles. Even though the students were new to cave rescue, they did a good job of moving Rodney carefully through the cave. At the same time, other students were dealing with the other two patients. Plus a couple students were on the surface, running the Incident Command Post and experiencing the very different situations top-side faces.

 A communications system using military field phones and a spool of wire was set up, and that helped get some communications out to the surface.

A few more maneuvers, and Rodney was out!

Because it was a mock rescue, he was magically cured and then freed from the litter.

We held a debrief so everyone would know what happened in other parts of the incident. The lead instructor, Bonny, led the debrief. The debrief also highlighted things that went well and areas that need more practice.

It was a great weekend, and I was impressed how far some of the students had come to take the class. We had students from not only nearby Utah and Nevada, but also California, Montana, and Wyoming. Some drove 14 hours one way! Fortunately, they all thought it was worth it and are looking forward to learning more about cave rescue. It's a type of rescue that isn't needed often, but when it is, it takes specialized skills.
For more on upcoming cave rescue training, check out the NCRC page. There's also an annual national weeklong seminar (next May in Indiana), plus various regional weeklong seminars (such as next February in Texas), plus there will be additional Orientation to Cave Rescues and Small Party Assisted Rescue classes listed.

To read more about actual cave rescues or to report one, here's the American Caving Accidents page.

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