Depth through thought

OUCC News 22nd May 1996

Volume 6, Number 14

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This week, DTT continues the theme of discussing the "results" of the practice rescue and first aid course. Any responses or further comments are welcome for the next issue. This week, Jim Ramsden and Steve Roberts air their views.

First Aid and Practice Rescue

Jim Ramsden's Report

This (last) weekend we held the, now annual, First Aid training course and practice cave rescue in Cuckoo Cleeves. I trust that those who attended the First Aid course found it informative and useful.

The Practice Rescue has given rise to its usual round of plaudits and brickbats. The biggest brickbat must go to all those who couldn't make it to the practice. We take a lot of rescue equipment to Spain each year and God forbid that we should ever have to use it, the more people who know how to use it, the better chance we have of being able to use it successfully. A similar argument applies to First Aid training, most caving accidents happen to us in the UK and usually in the kitchen.

A few specific points need to be raised.

Belays: Ideally placed belay points would be much higher than those required for SRT. This is to allow space for the hauling tackle and leave room to manoeuvre the stretcher at the pitch head. On the practice rescue we used what was available. In a real rescue this would entail a lot of bolting. This is why there should be bolting kits in the rescue kits which should never be removed under any circumstances what-so-ever. A possible compromise here would be to have one SERVICEABLE bolt kit in the rescue kit and one kit for shaft bashing that MUST be returned to camp at the end of every day. On a rescue we would still need every available bolting kit. If there is enough people, someone should be moving behind the rescue to collect all equipment, stuff it into tackle bags and get it moving forward. For important bits of kit, e.g. Bolting kits, Pulleys and slings the controller should be making sure these are always where they are needed. One further point was that we had barely enough pulleys between us, it makes a lot of sense to carry one as part of your SRT kit, they don't weigh much, they have their uses and are a potential life saver. We didn't have an opportunity to do a truly vertical haul, we should attempt to do this sometime should the chance arise.

Personnel: To move the stretcher through the cave you can't really get more than four-six people holding the stretcher, 1-2 persons hauling and one person lifelining the casualty. This leaves a dozen jobs to be done. The next 2-3 obstacles should be rigged and ready, obstacles need to be cleared, pitch heads need to be cleared of debris, tackle continually needs to be ferried forward etc. etc. Since we didn't have enough people we were continualy having to stop and wait for these jobs to be done. There is a natural tendency for the stretcher to get moved forward, over and around people, this tends to leave more and more people behind the stretcher and fewer and fewer in front. Therefore always take every opportunity to move people in front of the stretcher.

Casualty: Dave was treated better than some casualties in recent years, he was usually referred to as Dave or The Stretcher rather than the body. Not too many people climbed over or above him. But he wasn't always told what was going on e.g. "We're stopping while we finish sorting out the belay", "We're going to turn you round and take you up through this hole. However Dave did let us of lightly. Someone with a real broken femur would have made a hell of a lot more noise as we lugged them around. The stretcher is still being moved much to jerkily, usually along the lines of "One Two THREE, HEAVE!", and we are still not taking enough care of the casualties head.

Organisation: The gear and equipment was assembled and dispatched well, due to a lack of personnel we had to dispense with a surface controller once we left the MNRC. The underground controller is probably best placed near the top of the obstacle that the stretcher is moving up. This enables them to ensure that sufficient people and equipment is moving from behind to in front of the casualty. A second medically competent, individual should remain at the had of the stretcher to monitor the patient and directly control and co-ordinate the movement of the stretcher. Toward the end of the practice people were getting tetchy. This was due in part to the lack of personnel, which left two people trying to do four jobs with out much support from either above or below. But some was do to breakdowns in communications, the controller should let everyone know what they are supposed to do at each obstacle, and let everyone know if there is a change of plan.

The OUCC rescue guide is available on the web and is essential reading for anyone going on expedition. or for those of you worried about web-spiders, Gavin has copies.

"Rescue Rescue!"

Steve Roberts' report

The BSAC glossy journal used to have a regular feature called "I learned about diving from that", in which someone describes things they did that went wrong and how they emerged from them a stronger, more mature, better diver. Usually what went wrong was forgetting to put the demand valve on the bottle and what they learnt was to check their kit more thoroughly, or something.

Anyway, to the point, "I learned about caving from that".... The rescue practice went pretty well, but I think what I learned was:

  1. The sked stretcher is "OK" but not ideal. I doubt any lightweight stretcher is better, but I can see problems if someone had a broken leg or damaged neck, since the body is free to slide inside the stretcher to a greater extent than would be good for them in those circs. It would be good if we could think of some way to stop the head flopping about - maybe a helmet with tapes that could be tied to the stretcher? We should also see if the body's sit harness could be attached to the stretcher to stop sliding.
  2. It helps if there are a lot of jammers, big krabs and pulleys available. We didn't have enough. Make sure that you have these on you at all times in Spain; "Third wave" rescuers should obviously take down all spare kit of this sort they can find.
  3. It helps if all of the rescue team are strong and fit. For "ordinary" caving, fitness is a lot more important than strength. For rescue work, they are about equally important - since any one rescuer may at some time be the only one in a position to apply force to move the body or stop it being dropped. Go weight training.
  4. Everyone should know the basics of how to set up hauling systems; not hundreds of variants, but how to set up a pulley-jammer, and systems that give 2:1 and 4:1 advantages. I re-learned what I had slightly forgotten, that a Petzl stop can be used (rope round lower bobbin only) as an excellent self-locking "pulley". Worth knowing for belaying on ladders, too.

Caving Gear for Sale

As I will soon being going back to the U.S. and am unable to transport my gear, all of it is up for sale. This includes a complete SRT kit (Rapide harness, Petzl stop, extra jammer), oversuit (blue and red, non-TSA jobbie), fleece undersuit, Fisma generator + helmet w/ back-up light, and even a pair of 7 1/2 wellies, though they seem to be bigger than that. All of this stuff has only been used for a week in Yorkshire, 6 weeks in Spain, and one novice trip and is in very good condition (even the oversuit). I will be selling it for 20% off the gear order price (a list of which hopefully someone still has). If you are interested, please e-mail me at
Mike "Yes, I do still exist" Coram