If we have an AGM with the cave rescue team, we tend to stick a training session to it. I suppose this is for making it more fun, and more worth the travel, for the people who would attend anyway, and to encourage people that might not bother to show up if there is only a meeting. And this time we would gather at Dol y Moch. I hadn't been before!
I thought I was quite organised; I had submitted my report beforehand, and I had arranged car sharing with people who live a bit north from me. But on the day I didn't see a car appear. By the time I figured I should really get into my own car if the car sharing would have fallen through, I checked my NWCRO email (which I currently can't get on my phone); it had indeed fallen through. But I did manage to make it just in time!
It started with our training officer going through the call-out process. We had some new faces, and it is good if they all know how this works. And a good reminder for the rest. Most of us are not involved in what happens behind the scenes; we just get a call-out, and get into our cars. But what you don't see is quite important!
Then the idea was to do some practical training sessions. One session with communication, one with rope work, and one stretcher session in the artificial cave this outdoor centre has. And I was put in charge of the stretcher sessions in the cave. I had won the jackpot!
With the first small group of people and the stretcher I went that way. We had to decide what to do. We decided it would be fun to try something difficult. There was a vertical bit that looked interesting! And if we would manage to get the casualty up there, we would be rewarded by being able to just let them slide down gently on the other side. We went for it!
|The artificial cave system; Picture by Ed|
We knew the curves in the system were tight, and that there was no chance we could get the actual stretcher through. So we picked the next lightest person in our little group, and strapped him into the spinal board. If you can, you would strap your casualty to that spinal board, and then put the casualty with spinal board and all in the stretcher, but if you can't do that then you will have to make do with the spinal board alone.
Getting our casualty into the entrance chamber went okay. Getting him into the passage, and around the corner, also worked. And then we reached the vertical bit! It was not straight up vertical; it was a bit of a zigzag. But because our casualty could fold up his legs we just managed to do it. It was a sweaty business but we made it work!
We had attached a long sling to the spinal board, so we could have two people behind each other pulling on the casualty. It was me by the casualty’s head, and a chap called Gareth behind me. But when I was on top of the vertical bit, I suddenly heard the squeaking of rubber and plastic. He had accidentally come down the slide! And couldn't stop himself. And then there was more squeaking when he tried to scramble back up. He couldn't do it! He just couldn't get purchase on the smooth tunnel. I thought it was funny!
Our sessions were only an hour all together, so when we had our casualty out we had to go back for a swap-over. But first lunch! When I also had a chat with Kat, the secretary, about the application procudure. And yes, there were only two women there, and they both have a secretarial role. So not bad; again I wasn't the only woman. Which matters to me. And both women are in the committee. But typical what roles we go for. There is still a way to go.
After lunch I got my second group. This group thought we should put the casualty in the stretcher, and not do a recce. Well, if they insist! I dropped enough hints. And surprise surprise, you can't get the casualty from the entrance chamber into the system in a stretcher. The bends are too tight! So inside the entrance chamber we had to get her out again. And then we went the other way. This was less challenging than the vertical bit, but we had lost some time faffing with the stretcher. And it was useful after all. And good fun.
|“You can’t get this full length stretcher in there…” pic by Ed|
The last group decided to go the same way as the previous group, but they did a recce, so they knew they had to steer clear of the stretcher. There was a bit extra attention on casualty care as we had a medical professional in this team. And this time there was some extra slapstick; at some point it was decided that we had too many people behind the casualty, and not enough in front. I am so small I am confident in manoeuvering past a casualty without that getting too awkward. But this team had a lot of big clunky blokes, and they didn't like that! So two of them tried to get to the other side through the tunnel system. That took a while!
When we finally had the casualty out after all, we packed up the stuff. The fun was over; it was now time for our AGM. But we have an efficient chairman so it didn't need to take long.
There wasn't an awful lot said that was worth writing in a blog post during the meeting. But one thing was big: we knew our training officer would step down, but nobody was willing to step in. So now we don't have one. That is quite inconvenient! I hope we get this sorted. But I am not going to volunteer (in spite of what I said before about women in committee functions); I am already membership secretary, and aspiring controller. That is more than enough for me!
After the AGM we had to get out of there at speed. The outdoor centre was booked by some group or other and we had to make sure we were gone! So there was no lingering. But we will see what this coming year brings for our team! And I noticed during the meeting I had been feeling more at home in the team than I had done in years...