How to Stay Safe While Caving

by Terry
(Adventure Caves USA)

The recent death of John Jones in Nutty Putty Cave, Utah was a great tragedy. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I can't comment too much on whether or not this tragedy was avoidable. The news articles said that he was an active caver and cave access was controlled by the local grotto.

What I can say is that like any other sport or form of adventure, caving can be dangerous. Like rock climbing or scuba diving, it can be done safely but there are inherent risks. The only way to deal with those risks is through knowledge, preparation and experience.

If you are inexperienced at caving, I highly recommended that you join a local grotto of the National Speleological Society. Not only will this give you access to caves in your area but you will also have people to go caving with who can teach you how to do it safely.

In general, here are a few points to remember:

1. Never cave alone. You should have at least 4 people in your caving group. This is because if one gets hurt, one person can stay with the injured caver and the other two people can go for help.

2. Take the right equipment. Minimal equipment should be a helmet, 3 sources of light with spare batteries, food, water and the right kind of clothing.

3. Tell someone your plans. Let someone who isn't going into the cave know your plans. Tell them exactly where you're going and what time you expect to be out of the cave.

4. Know your limits. Don't push yourself to do what you aren't comfortable with or haven't been trained for. Don't go into tight spots unless you know you can fit. Don't use ropes unless you've had proper training.

Cave diving is the most dangerous type of caving. Open water certification is not enough. You must have specialized training for this.

5. Have an emergency plan. You should have a designated trip leader on every caving trip and an emergency plan. In the event of an emergency, the trip leader will make the decisions and give instructions.

This is just a brief outline on how to stay safe while caving. For more in-depth information, talk to your local grotto members and read the resources at the NSS website.

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