Cave Rescue Training

Cave Rescue Training

Team-Level Training Information

The Sheriff’s Cave Rescue Team conducts training about one weekend a month, usually on the third weekend of the month. About one-half of the training sessions are conducted at locations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, southern Nevada, or elsewhere outside San Bernardino County.

Team training events are open only to team members.

Due to the highly technical nature of vertical cave rescue and the demanding requirements for personal skill levels above the norm expected of a search and rescue team, all team members are required to:

  1. Attend no less than 75% of all training sessions.
  2. Attend no less than 2 in-cave training sessions per year with the team.
  3. Pass an annual personal vertical skills test.
  4. Attend a National Cave Rescue Seminar as a student, instructor or staff member involved in field training every four years or less.

This team is skilled in all aspects of wilderness search and rescue, routinely accepting missions throughout California, from the Mojave Desert to 12,000’+ Sierra Nevada peaks.  Most members of the team are certified in Winter / Alpine Skills, which includes snow and ice travel, avalanche awareness, avalanche transceiver operation, and other skills. Team members also have the opportunity to participate in advanced rescue courses taught by internationally-recognized leaders in the field.

National-Level Training Information


The National Cave Rescue Commission is a volunteer group developed to coordinate cave rescue resources throughout the United States. The NCRC does not do rescues! The NCRC itself is a communications network through which to locate the actual rescue workers and equipment. Most NCRC cavers do perform rescues, but not as part of the NCRC; rather 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 (NSS).

The NCRC is also affilated with the Cave Rescue Section of the NSS which publishes a cave rescue newsletter called the “Muddy Litter Letter.”

In addition to its main function as a communications network, the NCRC has other goals:

  • To maintain good working relationships with other rescue-oriented individuals, organizations, government agencies, and sources of specialized equipment and services (e.g. ,the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and Center for Mine Safety and Health Administration).
  • To maintain current files of possibly useful equipment (including, but not limited to, underground communications equipment, cave oriented medical kits, etc.) or services which can be obtained through the above sources.
  • To develop and maintain a limited supply of certain equipment such as special rescue litters and vertical rescue gear in key locations throughout the country.
  • To increase the number and proficiency of cave rescuers across the U.S., by sponsoring training sessions and seminars, and by encouraging other caving, rescue, or EMS organizations to sponsor such educational programs.
  • To encourage international cooperation by developing contacts with cave rescuers and rescue agencies in other countries, by preplanning with these groups where U.S. involvement is anticipated, and by inviting participation of cave rescuers from other countries in NCRC seminars.


The NCRC 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. In addition to the national and regional coordinators, the NCRC staff includes: a Diving Officer, a Training Coordinator, and a Medical Officer, who provide advice and keep track of medical and dive rescue equipment and personnel. As do most rescue organizations, NCRC also depends on many volunteers with no official position whose special knowledge, talents, or contacts make the network more effective.

California falls within the Western Region of the NCRC. Visit their Web Page at:

Other regions and their web pages are:

Eastern Region:

Central Region:

South-Central Region:

An interesting collection of cave rescue Web pages can be found at:

NCRC Seminars – National Level

NCRC Seminars are offered once a year in various locations around the country. The most recent was held at Camp Pioneer near Beverly, West Virginia, and next year’s seminar will be held in Texas. These seminars are 8 days in length and generally cost in the neighborhood of $350-$450 (course fee, meal plan and dorm lodging). 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 this national weeklong seminar the various regions also sponsor additional weeklong seminars and weekend basic orientation courses.

NCRC Seminars – Regional Level

The Sheriff’s Cave Rescue Team has presented three “modular” seminars (1996, 1998 and 2000) in Southern California. The most recent included Level I and Level II courses and was presented over the course of three weekends at locations in San Diego County, the Great Basin of Nevada, and at Mitchell Caverns park in San Bernardino County.

Level I Seminars (Basic Level)

The Level I Seminar teaches current emergency management and cave rescue techniques, and provides instruction in caving, basic rope work and management. It is specifically tailored to the various needs of agency personnel with little or no cave-related experience, and cavers with little or no rescue or medical experience. Level I seminars prepare students to function as cave rescue team members and is a prerequisite for the NCRC Level II Seminar.

Level II Seminars (Intermediate or Team Leader Level)

The Level II Seminar prepares students to function as cave rescue team leaders. Participants must have successfully completed an NCRC Level I course within the past 4 years. The Level II course assumes that students have learned, retained and practiced the basic skills in management, medical, vertical and horizontal rescue techniques taught in Level I.

Level III Seminars (Advanced Level)

The Level III Seminar is open to students who have successfully completed an NCRC Level II course within the past 4 years. Level III is designed to enhance the technical and management skills and talents of the students. Most sessions will be practical field exercises and will specialize in crack and crevice rescue, technical rigging problems and difficult litter handling situations. Student teams will be given cave rescue problems and be expected to solve them with the assistance and supervision of the instructors.

Instructor Qualification Track

The Instructor Qualification Track is only open to students who have successfully completed all three seminar levels and are recommended. Students will receive an intensive course in the development of instructional materials, preparation of classes and presentation of instruction.