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Report of Action B.2: Conference on Balkan Cavers camp & Action D.1 Participation and presentation on Balkan Cavers meeting 2012

Introduction

The 6th Balkan Cavers Camp was held in Logatec (Slovenia) from 28.6. to 1.7.2012. According to the Grant Agreement (GA, Action B.2 & D.1) we (EU Proteus Project team members) also participated in this meeting.

Altogether there were 206 participants, who included 47 Slovenian cavers and cave rescuers in addition to a 159 foreign cavers (see participants' attachment). The number of countries represented and participants included Bulgaria (74), Croatia (6), Germany (2), Greece (2), Ireland (1), Macedonia (2), Montenegro (3), Poland (3), Romania (35), Serbia (14), Turkey (16) and Austria (1). We were impressed with the number of participants and all agreed that our participation and the presentation of the EU Proteus Project and its results achieved so far was a good decision.

The main aim of this meeting was to bring together cavers from different countries and visit as many caves as possible. Slovenian cavers and cave rescuers helped the event organizers to accomplish this goal. Every day participants had an option to visit one or more of the 25 listed caves (fig. 2). These caves were categorised according to the level of skill required for their exploration. Categories included "Hard", "Middle" any "Easy". On Thursday (28th June) there were 115 cavers in 8 caves, while on Friday there were 120 cavers in 9 caves and on Saturday 42 cavers in 6 caves. All participants were impressed with the level of organization shown during the meeting. The logistics and information centre were run by Slovenian cave rescuers (EU Proteus project team members). This also provided an opportunity for our project members to obtain logistic training for future international cave rescue events. Experience gained by our team members working on this task is also important for organizing our own International cave rescue mission. Fig. 2 shows how the visibility of the Proteus project and the EU was well done.

Figure 2: Cave expedition sign in place at the info point & visibility of the EU Proteus project as well as EU.

EU PROTEUS role in the Balkan Cavers Meeting

At this event it was important that we present the EU Proteus project. To achieve this, project members gave presentations covering the key aspects concerning different project Tasks. In addition, the team gave presentations about the Proteus Project, Cave Conservation, Potential hazards in caves and the Slovenian Cave Registry system (fig. 3).

Figure 3: Team members giving presentations about different aspects of the EU Proteus Project.

The actual meeting and participating list of members together with the presentations are attached to this report. These include presentations on:

· The EU Proteus Project and results so far.

· The Slovenian Cave Registry.

· Potential dangers in caves.

A great deal of interest was shown in the EU Proteus project and many of the participants questions were related directly to the activities of the project and ultimately how we managed to organize an EU project on cave rescue. Also 45 foreign cave rescuers attended the meeting which resulted in a discussion about how different cave rescuers could form successful collaborations. All agreed on the need for greater international cooperation, the outcome of which would be a standardised cave rescue technique (system). We also invited the rescuers to attend our Action G.2: Implementation of the International Cave Rescue Instructors Training. The action will take place from 15.9 to 23.9.2012 in Sežana (Slovenia). For this action we have already arranged for two highly experienced French cave rescue instructors to lead a one week cave rescue exercise.

Cave rescue training conducted within the framework of the EU Proteus project

Due to the interest shown by cave rescuers at the meeting, we arranged an international cave rescue exercise in Najdena jama. Najdena jama is a complex cave system, characterised by a labyrinth of passages, abysses, water and a lot of mud (see fig. 4). This took place on the Saturday (30.6.2012). The exercise was headed by Maks Merela (EU Proteus project manager) and forty-two cave rescuers from nine countries including Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, Turkey, Croatia, Romania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia participated to the exercise. The goal was to recover an injured caver located at a depth of 120 m approximately 1.2 km from the cave entrance (the location is marked on fig. 4).

Figure 4: Cave Najdena Jama map. The cave entrance and place of the accident is marked. (Map Source: Cave Registry of Slovenia).

Cave rescuers were organized into six rescue teams working in the cave; additionally we setup our headquarters (HQ) in front of the cave. HQ members (fig. 5) note down all the important events that occurred during the training exercise. Each instructor deliberately chose rescuers from different countries to see how international cooperation with rescuers with various levels of experience would work. Organizing such an action is a real challenge not only because of communication problems but also because it is not possible to know in advance the personal experience and skill level of each rescuer.

Figure 5: Najdena Jama cave and HQ personnel in front of the cave entrance. Communication between rescue teams in the cave and HQ was available via a wired telephone.

The first rescue team entered the cave at 11:00 pm. Their task was to take a stretcher into the cave and all the necessary material and equipment to prepare the casualty for evacuation. Immediately afterwards, the second team installed the telephone system to allow communication between rescuers and surface personnel. An efficient communication system is vital in a cave rescue situation because the underground cave environment does not allow the use of simple wireless connections such as two-way radio systems.

All other members of the cave rescue teams then entered the cave one after the other. Prior to evacuation (at 14:48) the casualty was prepared i.e., fitted with a body warming device and placed securely on the stretcher (fig. 6).



Figure 6: Preparation of the casualty for a long muddy journey out of Najdena jama & starting the evacuation by hauling the stretcher upwards with a pully system.

The cave layout meant that rescuers had to prepare several cave specific manoeuvres for getting the stretcher across the many obstacles (fig. 7).

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Figure 7: Preparation of the equipment for safe stretcher transport & hauling the stretcher by rope.

At 17:33 the casualty finally emerged from the cave. The whole evacuation took just under 3 hours. The cave was then de-equipped and the final rescuer emerged from Najdena jama at 19:10.

Analyse of the International cave rescue training exercise

The whole rescue exercise was considered a success. Evacuation of the injured caver was fast enough albeit there were some deficiencies. These included:

· Communication problems (language).

· The use of different and in some case incorrect rescue techniques.

· Some of the rescuers did not have the correct personnel equipment and did not carry out optimal rescue manoeuvres.

Conclusions

Under the Proteus project framework we have worked hard on designing Tasks specifically to solve such problems.

For example Task E (Cave Rescue Unit) involves several cave rescue training exercises with the goal to achieve a common cave rescue system.

We have also attempted to standardize a rescuers' personnel equipment (Task C: Action C.1 - Standard equipment necessary for the safe entering and in-dependent working in a cave) to allow them to optimally progress through a cave and enable them to work efficiently with the rescue system. The standardized (recommended) list of personal equipment is attached also to this report.

As a Project Manager I estimate this Action as very well planed and very well accomplished. This was a perfect opportunity to present EU Proteus Project and its Tasks to the target audience.

Attachments:

· Presentation of EU Proteus Project and results so far

· Presentation of Cave Registry System in Slovenia

· Presentation on Dangers in Cave

· Equipment standard for save entering and self-dependent work in the caves (Deliverable of Action C.1)

· Participants list

Best regards,

Depala vas, 12.7.2012

Project Manager: Maks Merela