Author Topic: Cave communication for a rescue team  (Read 3455 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.

Online 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.

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2019, 10:03:22 pm »
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.

My mistake, thanks Estelle! Very good of the North Wales team to bring them down, they were good bits of kit to have a play with :)

Offline Stuart France

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #26 on: November 08, 2019, 05:16:29 pm »
Single-wire phones are your cheapest and easiest way forward.  I build a batch of about 30 handsets and 10 base stations for UK rescue teams that ordered them during 2013.  They paid £43 per handset and £64 per base station which represents the parts rather than labour.

These were designed to eliminate all known hassles with the previous generation of caving field phones:
1) stop people from turning them off in the cave (complicated procedure to turn it off once it is on)
2) make them last on three AA cells for over a day's use and step up to a constant 12 volts internally regardless of battery voltage droop
3) turns itself off after many hours of inactivity
4) can send call tones and roger beeps
5) military standard waterproof mic/speaker
6) circuit is potted (not the battery of course) and a single IP68 push button to control everything.

It's written up in the BCA CREJ No.82
http://bcra.org.uk/pub/cregj/index.html?j=82

but you need a login to download the PDF of the article.  That article in Word format and other info about it is in zip file links at:
http://www.linetop.co.uk/cssdata/swt.htm

As to which teams might have spare units they might give away to a good cause:  Gloucester GRG took 10 handsets and SMWCRT took 8.

I may have a few spare PCBs and excess components somewhere, but I've not looked at this since 2013!

Offline Jopo

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #27 on: November 09, 2019, 01:20:37 am »
Thought you produced more than that Stuart. Deserved to, fking good sets.
Jopo

Offline yuvals

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #28 on: November 10, 2019, 09:29:31 am »
Single-wire phones are your cheapest and easiest way forward.  I build a batch of about 30 handsets and 10 base stations for UK rescue teams that ordered them during 2013.  They paid £43 per handset and £64 per base station which represents the parts rather than labour.

These were designed to eliminate all known hassles with the previous generation of caving field phones:
1) stop people from turning them off in the cave (complicated procedure to turn it off once it is on)
2) make them last on three AA cells for over a day's use and step up to a constant 12 volts internally regardless of battery voltage droop
3) turns itself off after many hours of inactivity
4) can send call tones and roger beeps
5) military standard waterproof mic/speaker
6) circuit is potted (not the battery of course) and a single IP68 push button to control everything.

It's written up in the BCA CREJ No.82
http://bcra.org.uk/pub/cregj/index.html?j=82

but you need a login to download the PDF of the article.  That article in Word format and other info about it is in zip file links at:
http://www.linetop.co.uk/cssdata/swt.htm

As to which teams might have spare units they might give away to a good cause:  Gloucester GRG took 10 handsets and SMWCRT took 8.

I may have a few spare PCBs and excess components somewhere, but I've not looked at this since 2013!

Thanks, that is relay helpful.
Why do you need base station? As far as I understand "Michies" are symmetrical and can be used for both ends of the system.

Offline Fred

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #29 on: November 10, 2019, 11:29:38 pm »
I'm sure Stuart will reply but having a little knowledge of the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group's units I can say there aren't any spare - they are still very much part of their frontline kit.

Regarding the handsets, your right you don't need a specific base station unit. In fact there is a "base station mode" into whcih any unit can be switched - this turns off the auto shut down for example.

The specific base station units have an external speaker and an input for external 12v power - no issue of batteries running out and more appropriate for the control location. The increased price reflects the extra components.
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Offline Stuart France

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #30 on: November 17, 2019, 09:37:45 pm »
Yes Fred is right - you don't actually need a base station.  Any number of handsets can mutually communicate over a single piece of wire (or one laid out in any topology like a Y shape etc) without any base station in the system.

The idea of a base station is the loudspeaker enables everyone in the control room to hear what's going on.  When it's confidential you turn the loudspeaker volume low and the base station operator then listens then via the mil-spec earpiece/mic that in his/her hand since the base station's handset looks just like the underground ones with a PTT push button on the side.

The only 'issue' was that these base stations were designed as 4.5 volts units running from 3xD cells as compared to 3xAA cells in the cave handsets and both designs boost this up to 12 volts internally.  Cave Rescue would not accept primary cells being in a base station and they insisted on having 12 volt lead acid batteries to power the base stations instead.  Goodness knows why as D cells have a shelf life of 5 years and a run time for the base station of 10 days.

Design by committee as ever caused some gremlins, but I think the BCRA CREGJ article shows the original 4.5 volt base station version which is Ok.

Offline Duncan Price

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #31 on: November 24, 2019, 07:43:37 am »
Testing of thru-sump cave telephones:


Offline Stuart France

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #32 on: November 27, 2019, 10:31:06 pm »
OK, the good news is I've had a rummage in my toy box this week and found a few of the now obsolete mil-spec 4T earpieces and some spare circuit boards, already soldered up, for the cave phone handsets.  I've also got a dozen of some "4T-lookalike" earpieces (not military) that I bought cheap on eBay speculatively.  There are none on eBay right now.

The soldered phone circuit boards were made years ago when the BCRC batch of cave phones were manufacturered as spare parts that have never been needed but were funded in price of the delivered handsets, anticipating some hassles I would have to sort out later on.  But I've had no returns of defective cave handsets in 6 years which says something about the design/build or the ability of teams to fix stuff themselves.

So if any bona fide rescue team wants to get in touch with me via a PM then I may be able to sort you out with free PCBs and other parts.  I don't have any left of the metal boxes to house the phones.




Offline notdavidgilmour

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #33 on: December 01, 2019, 10:42:08 pm »
I believe Cave Link is now out of production  :(
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Offline Joel Corrigan

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #34 on: December 01, 2019, 11:04:54 pm »
Eh?  What have you heard about Cave Link???

Offline Fred

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #35 on: December 01, 2019, 11:08:19 pm »
However I've heard from a reliable source within the BCRC that Felix is working on a successor to the current CaveLink. Also support is still available, I know that within the last 6 months he sent out several new keyboards, free of charge, to one of the UK teams with CaveLink.
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Offline Alex

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Re: Cave communication for a rescue team
« Reply #36 on: December 02, 2019, 01:08:12 pm »
Quote
I believe Cave Link is now out of production  :(

If that's true, that is quite worrying. I hope they still deal with repairs,  but I guess they could no longer replace them?
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)