Linda Vidler, Adrian Paniwnyk and I attended the SECRO rescue practice in Reading on Sunday 8th October 2006, the venuebeing a mine located in the undergrowth of an old people's home garden. Approximately 25 people attended the rescue practice from clubs including Croydon Caving Club, SWCC, Wealden, and several other southern caving clubs. The entrance shaft consists of a 40 feet fixed ladder down an old air shaft; the main shaft having been filled in and lost. A recent collapse nearby may soon be confirmed as this lost shaft. The mine has a high ceiling (approximately 15 feet high), with several large chambers connected by roomy passageways. Although the understood purpose for the mine was chalk mining, there are many inconsistencies with this theory. For example, much of the mined material has been left behind in the mine and dumped. Other areas show shelving around the walls, but these are not related to beds of chalk. Considering that the main use of chalk was in brick manufacture, the reason for these features remains unknown.
The practice rescue was split into two sessions; first aid with casualty assessment and pitch rigging and hauling. All CCC members were in the casualty assessment section first. We had to find two casualties, diagnose their condition, treat them if necessary and final y move them to the pitch. Our casualty had an apparent lower spinal injury and a leg fracture, with appropriate ketchup and ham acting to give the situation reality. By use of a first aid assessment sheet, first aid kit and other miscel aneous items, we stabilised our casualty and secured her into a stretcher. We had a caving paramedic overlooking the two groups to assess our performance (he thinks she would have survived our efforts) and provide a debriefing session after our rescue attempts. He was very positive and we learned a lot from this session regarding communication and efficient rescue procedures.
The second session consisted of the pitch rigging and hauling section. To haul the casualties up the pitch, we rigged the tripod over the pitch with a 3 to 1 'Z' rig. This system enables a small group of people to lift easily a large weight with very little space at the pitch head. During the session we learnt the principles of the 'Z' rig and the art of communicating up and down the pitch.
The debriefing after the practice brought up a number of improvements that could be made, but the overall impression was of a successful practice with most participants learning something new. At this point I must reiterate one item: don't depend upon other people learning these lessons! Although the primary purpose of these lessons is to improve the skills within the rescue group, you may need this knowledge yourself at ANY TIME. This knowledge could save your own life or your friend's life whilst waiting for CRO to arrive! [So true. I was once hauled out of Bar Pot by CRO with a hauling rig that my fellow cavers had rigged. Ed.]