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Cave Rescue in the Western Region

General | NCRC | Training | Rescue Teams


Cave rescues are exceedingly difficult. Many complex rescues can last for several days, sometimes weeks. The rescue team is faced with the challenge of getting the injured caver out of the cave, not merely off of a cliff or mountain. They must work in "confined space" conditions, in the presence of cold, darkness, and water. In addition to all these other challenges, the teams must also strive to preserve the cave and keep it in pristine condition! Cavers will hesitate calling the rescue teams that damage caves.

Each caver should make it a priority to receive proper training, and maintain proficiency in safe techniques. Cavers in the Western Region have an excellent safety record. This is due to the strong safety and training programs that are available to the members of the western grottos. In addition to the grottos, several groups are available to provide instruction to cavers in the Western Region. The National Speleological Society sponsers the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC), which is a cave rescue coordination and training organiztaion. The Self Rescue Group (SRG) provides safety and self rescue research and education to cavers in the West. Descriptions of these groups may be found below.


The National Cave Rescue Commission is a volunteer group developed to coordinate cave rescue resources throughout the United States. The NCRC itself is not a cave rescue unit, but a communications network used to locate the actual rescue workers and equipment. Most NCRC cavers do perform rescues, but as members of their local rescue squads, civil defense units, or cave rescue groups.

The NCRC is a component of the Department of the Administrative Vice-President of the National Speleological Society. It is headed by a national coordinator and divides the U.S. into ten regional networks, each with a regional coordinator selected by a board of all regional coordinators on the basis of recommendations from cavers and cave rescue groups in the region. The boundaries of the NCRC regions are not the same as the NSS regions. The Western Region is currently served by the Western and Northwest regions of the NCRC.

The NCRC sponsors a weeklong cave rescue seminar each year which is held in various locations around the U.S. As in other types of rescue, cave rescue is constantly evolving, and the most up to date techniques are presented there each year. The NCRC utilizes the Incident Command System (ICS) familiar to EMS, Fire and Rescue. In addition to the national weeklong seminar the various regions also sponsor additional weeklong seminars and weekend basic orientation courses.


Cave rescue training is available to cavers from many sources within the Western Region. The San Bernardino Cave Rescue Team has also sponsored and taught several NCRC seminars. The Self Rescue Group is a separate organization from the Western Region. Their focus is small party rescue, using only the equipment that is available on a cave trip. They offer rescue training to cavers at the grotto level. Many grottos in the region also teach some recue techniques as part of their regular training programs.

Rescue Teams

Several rescue teams in the western region have members that are cavers. Many of the teams also have individuals on them that have recieved training from the NCRC. The following teams list cave rescue as one of their functions:

San Bernardino Cave Rescue Team

The Sheriff's Cave Rescue Team in San Bernardino County is the only formally organized, trained and equipped, agency-affiliated rescue team dedicated to cave rescue in the State of California. This is an all-volunteer team which was formed originally to serve as a dedicated response rescue team for Mitchell Caverns State Park in 1988. In 1995, they moved to their current location at the Sheriff's Department Headquarters in San Bernardino and changed their orientation to include more than just a purely local response. This team can, when coordinated through the State Office of Emergency Services, respond to cave rescue calls anywhere in the Western US.

They currently have 19 members, mostly cavers, who are at various levels of training in cave rescue. (All members are required to attend cave rescue training conducted by the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC).) They currently have two members who are instructors for the NCRC and seminars are presented by the team as a unit fund-raiser in Southern California every other year. They completed a combined Level 1 and Level 2 seminar in April, 1998 and in September of 2000. They are also taking applications for an Orientation to Cave Rescue course for June 8-9, 2002 in San Diego County. (For info, see the course web brochure.

They are always looking for new members! If you're interested, or if you just want to know more about them, check out their web site .

Siskiyou Search and Rescue
The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Search and Rescue consists of full-time deputies and volunteers from local communities around Siskiyou County. SAR is a well-trained department and is divided into two teams: a Field Team and a Support Team. The Field Team members are proficient in searching for lost people, rescuing injured people, evidence searches, recovering the deceased , and assisting the county during natural disasters. The Support Team assists the Field Team by providing communications and logistical support during SAR missions. All members are required to attend a set number of meetings, training sessions and exercises, and call-outs, and in addition, hold a current basic First Aid and CPR card, as well as maintain required basic equipment and meet physical requirements. SAR personnel are required to pass periodic skills/abilities tests and demonstrate proficiency in a variety of search/survival skills.
Siskiyou County is loaded with topographies ranging from swift-water rivers to high elevation mountains..i.e. 14,126' Mt. Shasta. The climate offers 4 "real" seasons ranging from whiteout snow storms to extremely hot summer days. Siskiyou is a visitor's and hiker's paradise offering diverse terrain, seasons and environments for the outdoor enthusiast. Along with these come the dangers and challenges that often result in Search and Rescue missions. The working equipment and vehicles within SAR is comprised of several snowcats, snowmobiles, 4x4 vehicles, and a variety of land and water craft. Siskiyou County SAR often works with support agencies such as the California Highway Patrol providing air search and rescue resources, Air National Guard, Mercy Air and other agencies. High altitude rescues and recoveries are frequent in Siskiyou County.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department - SAR
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Search and Rescue Unit has a countywide jurisdiction of over 8,000 square miles within the boarders of Clark County, Nevada. The unit is responsible for all search and rescue operations outside the urban environment. The unit is composed of a search and rescue coordinator, four officers, and about thirty civilian volunteers. The concept of the unit is to maintain a small number of motivated individuals who are highly trained in many search and rescue disciplines. Our specialties include high angle rope rescue, swiftwater rescue, lost or missing person search, and cave rescue. The unit is a fully accredited member of the Mountain Rescue Association. The unit conducts cave rescue training once a year in one of the several popular caves in Clark County. Several members of the unit have received NCRC training and are active members of the local NSS Grotto. In addition, the unit maintains a mutual aid agreement with the San Bernardino County Police Department to assist each other in the event of an extended cave rescue operation.
Corvallis Mountain Rescue
Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit (CMRU) is a volunteer SAR organization which offers assistance, without charge, for search and rescue (SAR) in difficult areas and high-angle terrain. While emphasizing mountain and high-angle rescue, various CMRU members are cavers and have taken cave rescue training instruction. In addition, some members have been involved in cave searches and rescues in the past. CMRU was put on an alert status during the 1990 NSS Convention in Yreka, for possible cave rescues. Since that time, we have agreed to have our names added to a list of available SAR assets which the Siskiyou County Sheriff can call in the event of a major rescue in the area. Skilled CMRU volunteers with mountaineering experience, trained in the many facets of technical alpine search and rescue, are available around the clock. CMRU is a member of the Mountain Rescue Association and the Oregon Mountain Rescue Council. .

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Last update: 9 January 2005