Every year Lava Beds National Monument welcomes more than 130,000 visitors, dozens of researchers, and a diverse seasonal staff hailing from across the United States. The park estimates that 80% of visitors venture underground to enjoy the many lava tubes found here. Along with these intrepid visitors, staff and guest researchers support the management of geologic and biologic resources found within caves.
In preparation for potential cave search and rescue incidents, Lava Beds recently hosted a week long cave rescue training course. Instructors from the National Cave Rescue Commission, a section of the National Speleological Society, donated substantial time and effort to educate 13 students – National Park Service staff, personnel from neighboring agencies, and members of local caving clubs and search and rescue teams.
For eight consecutive days, students were immersed in learning and practicing vertical rope skills, patient packaging, communication and search procedures, and litter transport through a variety of cave environments. At the end of the week, a 12-hour mock rescue was held during which four “patients” were found and rescued from two separate caves.
The complicated logistics, along with physical demands of performing cave rescue procedures for a lost or injured patient, instilled a strong value for safe caving practices among students and instructors.
Information on the National Speleological Society and the National Cave Rescue Commission can be found at the link below.