Cave Rescue Training Exercise

(Editor’s note: This summer MAKC and other local caving groups participated in a mock search and rescue in Hillside.Cavers were not privvy to the location of the exercise until the callout came; they merely knew that there would be an exercise on the appointed day. Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group acted as the coordinator for the event. The scenario was that the group would gather at the Bear Cave parking lot to search for a lost caver. When they arrived they were told that the caver was lost at Bear Cave. When they got to Bear Cave they were told that the caver had decided to go to Lemon Hole, beating the brush down into the next valley. Permission had been secured from the Forbes State Forest District Forester, Ed Callahan, for the exercise. When they arrived at Lemon Hole they were told that someone was injured at the bottom of the entrance pit, and they then had to extricate the injured caver. Cavers wishing to take part in future training exercises should contact either Rich Monty or Chris Hill.)

By Chris Hill

I received the call out order from Rich Monty at approximately 7:45 a.m. and began down the list. There are several disconnected and no longer in service numbers. There were very few contacts made but I left messages on all voice mails that I could and made sure that I stated this was a “practice”. I ended the call out process at 8:53 a.m. I loaded up and arrived at the Bear Cave Parking Area at approximately 9:45 a.m. Chris Couch and a few AMRG folks had arrived. Others arrived soon after. I believe that seven people including me responded from the cave call out list. The total turn out including cavers and AMRG was about 23 people.

The training exercise went very well. The number one issue is that a carry stretcher will not fit through the Lemon Hole gate. A Sked was the only option and it had a few problems being fitted back through the gate. AMRG personnel were excellent and performed very well. I would say that we cavers provided good support and back up but did not have to participate in rescue efforts as AMRG had it covered. We provided helpful information and acted as damn good mules in our support role. I think that all agreed that staging at the Bear Cave Parking Area for all the caves in the area works well. It accommodated the rescue trailer and 15 to 20 vehicles and still had some room available.

I think our response turn out was adequate but not great. As it took me over an hour to make the calls we might want to try using two CROs and splitting the list. Even so our people responded in a timely fashion, but splitting would possibly cut a half hour or more from the response time. I think Rich’s suggestion for an e-mail and/or texting group is the way to go. Even with that a call out on “real” phones should probably still be our standard or back up.

Also when I left messages I did not ask for a return call. With the time it takes to call the full list return calls might really slow the process. Perhaps we should have a phone number or text/email to contact if the person is able to respond.