No one ever seems to think that accidents will happen to them, but
it is important to know how to be a safe caver and what to do if an accident
does happen. There are many resources available on this subject, and rather
than try to duplicate all that information here, we will try to point
you to a few of the more reliable and useful resources.
There is no substitute for training and in cave experience under the
supervision of qualified cavers, and the best way to find them is visit
a local caving organization. Individual clubs are different and if no
one volunteers their services as a trainer or trip leader, you may have
to ask and be a little persistent.
Caves are inherently dangerous environments, with many hazards we may
not be used to dealing with from our above ground experience. Please read
our disclaimer for a brief discussion of
some of the hazards inherent to caving One moment of carelessness, inattention,
or impairment by exhaustion or hypothermia can lead to disaster. By understanding
the hazards that may be encountered, getting proper training, and using
appropriate equipment these hazards can be minimized, but never eliminated.
We have provided some safe caving tips below for new cavers. There are
many additional resources available by doing some Internet searches. Most
caving clubs have their own safety guidelines and you would be well advised
to find a local group and inquire into the information and training opportunities
that they have available. The Potomac Speleological Club has a useful
list of cave safety
tips on their web site.
Safe Caving Tips
Have the proper equipment along. The
page offers advice on helmets, light sources and clothing
for safe and comfortable caving.
Never cave alone. A group of 3 or 4 is small enough
to move quickly, yet big enough to allow flexibility in emergencies.
If someone is injured, at least one person should stay with them while
others go for help.
Make sure someone knows where you are going and when
you are expected to return. Allow some leeway on return times since
trips often take longer than expected, but having someone ready to
call for help if your group is overdue is a wise precaution.
Move carefully in the cave. Uneven ground, low ceilings
and pits make running and jumping dangerous. Climbs, crawls and rough
terrain can make even a sprain a big problem for getting out of the
Be aware of the nature of the caves you are visiting.
For example, caves with streams may be prone to flooding and a sharp
eye may need to be kept on the weather. Other caves require climbing
skills or vertical equipment that you or others in your party may
If you run out of light or become hopelessly
lost get into a safe position and wait for help (you did tell someone
where you were going didn't you?).
When an accident happens a quick response may be necessary to keep an
injury from becoming a fatality. Extraction of a patient from deep within
a cave can be strenuous and technically difficult, often requiring large
numbers of people for callouts that may last a day or more. The time required
to get a patient out complicates treatment of what might otherwise be
a routine injury, and hypothermia and shock can be serious problems for
an immobile patient.
The role of the cave rescue community is to help keep that response time
as short as possible by providing training to cavers and potential rescuers
on how to respond, and providing quick access to specialized rescue equipment
and trained cave rescue personnel. Our cave rescue
page provides information on how to initiate a cave rescue in an emergency
and links to cave rescue organizations with more detail on specific cave
A recent discussion in the Safety and techniques forum of the NSS
discussion board covered ideas for a cave
emergency kit to be available on caving trips (not necessarily in
the cave). Another recent discussion in the Equipment forum discussed
the contents of a minimal
first aid kit to be carried in the cave to handle emergencies.
The Self Rescue
Group also has a number of online resources and a discussion list.