Cave Rescue

Cave Rescue© Sara Spillett

Our region has several Cave Rescue organisations, including the Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) based in Clapham (the three peaks and three counties area), the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) based in Grassington (the eastern Dales including Wharefdale, Langstrothdale, Littondale, Nidderdale and Stump Cross as well as the North York Moors), and Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team (SMRT) based in the northern Dales (Wensleydale, Swaledale, Teesdale and beyond). These three teams have dedicated Cave Rescue capabilities and training.

We hope not to need the services of the rescue organisations when caving in our region. You can help ensure this by considering the following for all caving trips:

  1. Check the weather forecast.
  2. Ensure the fitness of your group is appropriate to the intended trip.
  3. Ensure your group all possess the necessary ropework skills for your trip.
  4. Check your equipment before every trip to make sure it is safe.
  5. Take water, food, spare lights/batteries, survival bags and first aid equipment.
  6. Be familiar with rope rescue and first aid techniques to assist any caver who is in difficulty.
  7. Research your trip thoroughly.

Sometimes, despite the best preparation, things can go wrong. To help ensure that in an emergency the rescue organisations can help you, the following information is essential.

ALWAYS leave a ‘Call-Out’ when going underground.

This means leaving the following details with a responsible person (who should also be aware of the procedures for summoning Cave Rescue outlined here):

  1. Names of those in your team.
  2. Any relevant medical details for those in your team.
  3. Destination (cave and, if appropriate, planned route).
  4. Car registration numbers and where you aim to be parked.
  5. Your carefully chosen ‘Call Out’ time (see below).
  6. Your nearest Cave Rescue service.

The ‘Call Out’ time is the time at which cave rescue should be initiated if you have not reported back to say you are safe.

The choice of ‘Call Out’ time should allow for reasonable unexpected, but non-hazardous delays (e.g. getting delayed behind another group, or the trip taking longer to navigate than expected). Do not forget about the duration of the walk to and from the cave (for example, the walk to Gaping Gill from Clapham village is approximately one hour each way).

However, the ‘Call Out’ time should not be so long that you would risk excessive delay in getting rescued, should there be a genuine emergency underground.

ALWAYS take a watch underground and monitor the time. If your trip is going slower than you expected, always turn around in sufficient time to ensure you can exit and cancel your ‘Call Out’ ideally at least an hour before the agreed time (don’t make your chosen callout panic by leaving it until last minute). Many Cave Rescue incidents are simply due to overdue groups underestimating the duration of their trip and failing to know when to turn around.

After your trip ALWAYS REMEMBER TO CANCEL YOUR CALL-OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!

Ensure your chosen Call Out is familiar with the information below. Always deliver the information directly (phone or in person). Do not leave callouts by text message or email; ensure you receive a positive response to confirm successful communication of the callout details.

Initiating a Cave Rescue for an overdue party

If you are the responsible person for a group of cavers who have gone underground and you have not heard from them when their ‘Call Out’ time is reached:

  1. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you decide to extend the ‘Call Out’ time.
  2. Try to contact the overdue group by telephone a few minutes before ‘Call Out’ time.
  3. If this is unsuccessful you must dial ‘999’ and ask for Police. You should inform the police operator that you require Cave Rescue. State which county the rescue is required in (note that the boundary between North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria cuts directly though the main caving area of the Yorkshire Dales at Leck Fell). Alternatively specify which Cave Rescue organisation is required (see above).
  4. The police will take your details (including the number to contact you on) and pass them to the Cave Rescue duty controller.
  5. Follow the police instructions. Usually the telephone call will then end, but you MUST wait by the phone for which you have provided details. The Cave Rescue Controller will phone you back very soon (usually within several minutes).
  6. Tell the Cave Rescue Controller everything you know about the missing group.
  7. The Cave Rescue Organisation will then commence a rescue. Follow their instructions.

Most rescues are concluded quite quickly, with the missing party having been harmlessly delayed (or having simply forgotten to cancel callout). However, in the event that the group are still underground, a rescue team will descend to locate and assist them.

Initiating a Cave Rescue for an accident in a cave

If you need to summon Cave Rescue urgently due to an incident in a cave:

  1. Dial ‘999’ and ask for Police. You should inform the police operator that you require Cave Rescue. State which county the rescue is required in (note that the boundary between North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria cuts directly though the main caving area of the Yorkshire Dales at Leck Fell). Alternatively specify which Cave Rescue organisation is required (see above).
  2. The police will take your details (including the number to contact you on) and pass them to the Cave Rescue duty controller.
  3. Follow the police instructions. Usually the telephone call will then end, but you MUST wait by the phone for which you have provided details. The Cave Rescue Controller will phone you back very soon (usually within five minutes).
  4. Tell the Cave Rescue Controller everything you know about the incident including: Cave name, route and location (including GPS/coordinates if known), the nature of the incident and any injuries sustained, location of the casualty, the number of people remaining in the cave, any hazards that the rescue team may need to know (i.e. flooding).
  5. The Cave Rescue Organisation will then commence a rescue. Follow their instructions.