Author Topic: Cave communication for a rescue team  (Read 3456 times)

Offline yuvals

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Cave communication for a rescue team
« on: November 04, 2019, 09:55:12 am »
Hey all,
We are looking to buy a communication system for a newly formed rescue team.

I have seen some options:
1. Wireless: System Nicola Cave Radio, [Micro] HeyPhone and Cave link.
2. Wired phones
3. APRS relay

Our caves are not so deep (up to ~200m) and not so long (up to ~10 km) but the rock can be Limestone, Sandstone or salt.

Our considerations are:
1. Cost, unfortunately we don't have a lot of money.
2. Availability, we are looking for a device that can be purchased from the manufacturer or self-assembled but the diagrams and parts are available for purchase
3. Simplicity and reliability (a system that has proven itself in the field and not something experimental)

I would appreciate any advice based on your experience.

TIA

Offline Alex

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2019, 01:14:37 pm »
I would recommend Cavelink. Basically it's underground texting with no voice but can make reliable connections almost anywhere. It's what we use now in UWFRA exclusively, CRO use it too. It has so far proven to be very reliable.

http://www.cavelink.com/cl3x_neu/index.php/en/

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Offline Ed

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2019, 01:22:08 pm »
I'll second Alex --- much more pleasant to use than Heyphone and if up and running properly unlike last I heard of Nicola

Cave link also gives you a written record of stuff --- doubles as contemporaneous notes in a legal situation /  relief team can look back

Offline yuvals

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2019, 02:30:53 pm »
How is the Cave link in compare to wired 2 way intercom? I have used the wired phone a lot during expeditions in east Europe.

Offline Ed

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2019, 02:35:06 pm »
its text based so you don't have to be sat there waiting to pick it up.

Think of it as  like SMS messaging rather than 2 way radio

Offline GoneCaving

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2019, 02:53:55 pm »
I'll second the recommendation for the cavelink. ICRO have been using these for a couple of years now. The key benefits are:
  • It doesn't have to be manned continuously
  • Unambiguous delivery of message, you know if the other side has received it or not, and if delivered you know they have received the text you have sent
  • A logged record of comms
  • And for some, the ability to connect to a cellphone network
  • Low maintenance (& a long battery life

Offline estelle

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2019, 06:57:32 pm »
have a look at the µHeyphone - http://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/radio.html and https://darknessbelow.co.uk/tuning-in-to-cave-radio-and-comms/ have a bit about it. They are a 'build your own' based on a circuit, but are basically the old heyphone in a nice shiny smaller package using modern processors.

Not sure how available Cave link or the Nicola is currently to buy as i believe some of the components may be unavailable down to discontinued/obsolete components. You'd need to contact the suppliers to check the latest on these.
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Offline notdavidgilmour

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2019, 07:13:39 pm »
I can also recommend the Cave Link system, but you should write a condensed set of instructions, laminate them and keep a copy with every unit as Cave Link is far from self explanatory.
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Offline andrewmc

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2019, 10:15:34 pm »

Our considerations are:
1. Cost, unfortunately we don't have a lot of money.

This pretty much rules out Cavelink... A pair of units will cost you over €2000 (although I did see a second hand pair on FB for I think around €1800?).

Offline estelle

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2019, 10:23:32 pm »
I can also recommend the Cave Link system, but you should write a condensed set of instructions, laminate them and keep a copy with every unit as Cave Link is far from self explanatory.
they are ok if you change the menu system on them for the simplified one. That makes them pretty much idiot proof as it takes away all the complicated and clever things you can do with them.
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Offline Joel Corrigan

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2019, 10:51:24 pm »
Yuvals, a few years ago (maybe four or five) the French rescue teams were using a modified version of the original Nicola that seemed to work very well (we used it for a week down many different caves in the Vercors).  I believe the original version was discontinued due to availability of parts but someone made a newer version that used different materials.  I am NOT talking about the latest Nicola but a rebuild of the early one & as far as I know the French teams may still be using this model.  I should be able to make some enquiries within the FSS if that would help?  And what Andrew has already said: the Cavelink is very good but also not a cheap option.

Offline Ed

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2019, 11:07:20 pm »
Also bear in mind the effect mineralization has on signal.

Heyphone was affected by it....certainly lead veins in the Dales, but was ok and we used it for years. Nicola was pretty much unusable in parts due mineralization.

Cave link. Doesn't appear to be issues. No garbled message (or the annoying helicopter noise from the ULF  submarine network). You either have a working signal and it tell you or nothing. You also get notification of when your message delivered and read.

It is also a more pleasant system for those sitting out a storm on the surface

Offline Ed

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2019, 11:12:02 pm »
Only down side of cave link......old members have to remember their reading glasses.

Offline estelle

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2019, 07:56:13 am »
Only down side of cave link......old members have to remember their reading glasses.
LOL Mendip Cave Rescue ones have cheap reading glasses in the box with them for this very reason...
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Offline Minion

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2019, 08:09:23 am »
Only down side of cave link......old members have to remember their reading glasses.
LOL Mendip Cave Rescue ones have cheap reading glasses in the box with them for this very reason...

SMWCRT also do the same.

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2019, 08:51:42 am »
Only down side of cave link......old members have to remember their reading glasses.
LOL Mendip Cave Rescue ones have cheap reading glasses in the box with them for this very reason...

SMWCRT also do the same.

As do at least one of the Dales teams...

Offline yuvals

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2019, 11:13:27 am »
Although it seems like the Cavelink is recommended by most people, I think that we cannot currently afford buying it so we considering wired intercom.

Does anyone have an experience using wired communication for rescue operations?
Do you have a recommendation for a specific wired system?

Offline Jopo

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2019, 05:00:57 pm »
The South and Mid Wales CRT have used single wire earth return or twin wire hand held sets for years (49 in my experience). There are many designs available on sites like CREG. They are simple cheap and ideal for semi skilled home construction. The only operating downside of single and twin wire is that both ends have to be manned although some designs have a simple buzzer alert. They are almost bomb proof as long as the single wire is in good condition and the operators remember to ground the sets using gloveless hands (yes it has happened more than once). They will work over kilometers  and have no problems with mineralization or radio interference. The only practical downside we ever found was relying on fixed lines. Unless the wire is high quality, corrosion resist and regularly tested they will always let you down. There are twin wire designs which have the advantage of duplex speak (no press to talk) and having the power supplied from the base station (single wire normally have a small 9v cell in each set)
Big advantage of wired sets is that rescuers who are not familiar with the system can follow the wire :).

Might be worth approaching the UK teams via the British Cave Rescue Council to see if there are any redundant single sets out there.

Jopo

Offline Ed

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2019, 06:03:41 pm »
Only down side of cave link......old members have to remember their reading glasses.
LOL Mendip Cave Rescue ones have cheap reading glasses in the box with them for this very reason...

SMWCRT also do the same.

As do at least one of the Dales teams...

UWFRA and CRO

Offline Alex

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2019, 08:00:00 pm »
Quote
The South and Mid Wales CRT have used single wire earth return or twin wire hand held sets for years (49 in my experience). There are many designs available on sites like CREG. They are simple cheap and ideal for semi skilled home construction. The only operating downside of single and twin wire is that both ends have to be manned although some designs have a simple buzzer alert. They are almost bomb proof as long as the single wire is in good condition and the operators remember to ground the sets using gloveless hands (yes it has happened more than once). They will work over kilometers  and have no problems with mineralization or radio interference. The only practical downside we ever found was relying on fixed lines. Unless the wire is high quality, corrosion resist and regularly tested they will always let you down. There are twin wire designs which have the advantage of duplex speak (no press to talk) and having the power supplied from the base station (single wire normally have a small 9v cell in each set)
Big advantage of wired sets is that rescuers who are not familiar with the system can follow the wire :).

Might be worth approaching the UK teams via the British Cave Rescue Council to see if there are any redundant single sets out there.

Jopo

Big downside of these sets is cave conservation, often in the past after a major rescue or flooding in a rescue have caused these lines to become abandoned and litter the cave. With as you say possibility of many kms of line, then not only do they require quite a few personnel to bring them in, they are also a mammoth task to bring back out again all when everyone's primary concern is the causality or the safety of their team meets, I can see why these have been left in caves in the past.

Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline Jopo

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2019, 01:06:25 am »
Quote
Big downside of these sets is cave conservation, often in the past after a major rescue or flooding in a rescue have caused these lines to become abandoned and litter the cave. With as you say possibility of many kms of line, then not only do they require quite a few personnel to bring them in, they are also a mammoth task to bring back out again all when everyone's primary concern is the causality or the safety of their team meets, I can see why these have been left in caves in the past.

True in the days of No 9 BT steel drop wire which was available in vast quantities. With PTFE coated thin gauge wire cleaning up, and laying, is a much less onerous task. There is really no excuse to not clearing up. Having organised several cleanups of old wire I will be the first to admit that there are still miles of the old stuff in some long SW caves, usually crammed up in some convenient corner or buried in a choke. The same goes for a lot of bang wire. I think (hope) teams and cavers have moved forward on the conservation front.

Jopo

Offline Duncan Price

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2019, 03:11:24 pm »
The South and Mid Wales CRT have used single wire earth return or twin wire hand held sets for years (49 in my experience). There are many designs available on sites like CREG. They are simple cheap and ideal for semi skilled home construction. The only operating downside of single and twin wire is that both ends have to be manned although some designs have a simple buzzer alert. They are almost bomb proof as long as the single wire is in good condition and the operators remember to ground the sets using gloveless hands (yes it has happened more than once). They will work over kilometers  and have no problems with mineralization or radio interference. The only practical downside we ever found was relying on fixed lines. Unless the wire is high quality, corrosion resist and regularly tested they will always let you down. There are twin wire designs which have the advantage of duplex speak (no press to talk) and having the power supplied from the base station (single wire normally have a small 9v cell in each set)
Big advantage of wired sets is that rescuers who are not familiar with the system can follow the wire :).

Might be worth approaching the UK teams via the British Cave Rescue Council to see if there are any redundant single sets out there.

Jopo

I have to agree with Jopo over the simplicity and reliability of single/dual wire coms.  I've used Molephones,  CaveLink and Heyphones and found that although CaveLink in particular has a lot of fancy features it doesn't always deliver the goods.  For example, I was the victim in the RESCON 19 evacuation of an injured cave diver through the sumps between Wookey 22 and 19.  Despite having practiced with the kit between the same two points on an earlier exercise, on the day the unit in 22 hadn't been paired with the one in 9 (dive base).  We had to send out a runner (swimmer?) with details memorised as no one has a diver's slate or wetnotes to record stuff.  A wired telephone line would have been easy to install (after all it could have been cable tied to the guideline).  I helped put some of the cable in during a rescue from the bottom of Daren Cilau many years ago and found it very easy.

Apparently there are no longer field telephones available for cave rescue on Mendip.   The last time one was used was a privately owned system in Wookey when the tunnelling was taking place so that comms could be established between 20 and 9.

Offline aricooperdavis

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #22 on: November 07, 2019, 04:23:46 pm »
Apparently there are no longer field telephones available for cave rescue on Mendip.

I think there are as we practiced using them at RESCON19, although they had intermittent connection problems with the batteries so it's possible that they have since been retired? They were excellent (if a bit heavy!)  :)

Offline estelle

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #23 on: November 07, 2019, 06:08:09 pm »
Apparently there are no longer field telephones available for cave rescue on Mendip.

I think there are as we practiced using them at RESCON19, although they had intermittent connection problems with the batteries so it's possible that they have since been retired? They were excellent (if a bit heavy!)  :)
The field telephones we used at ResCon didn't belong to Mendip, they were brought down by BCRC comms officer from the North Wales team.
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Offline andrewmc

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2019, 07:27:41 pm »
Devon CRO was still using Francephones a few years ago (small handheld single wire telephones) - and to be honest, given the length of Devon caves they would probably be the _first_ communication system set up.