Cave/Cliff Unit Responds to Sunset Rock for a High Fall Victim

posted May 17, 2019, 5:04 PM by Brad Tipton   [ updated May 17, 2019, 5:07 PM ]

On Tuesday, the Cave/Cliff Unit responded to Lookout Mountain to assist in the evacuation of a climber who fell approximately 30 feet while climbing at Sunset Rock. The National Park Service and Lookout Mountain Fire also assisted in the rescue that took approximately 1 hour. Sunset Rock is a popular climbing area managed by the National Park Service.

CHCRS in the News

CHCRS Receives Donation from Firehouse Subs

posted Jul 5, 2016, 5:45 PM by CHC Rescue Service

Chattanooga - Hamilton County Rescue would like to thank Firehouse Subs and all their patrons who "round up" each time you eat at one of the six regional Firehouse Subs restaurants. Your spare change went to equipping the Cave/Cliff/Technical Unit with an Arizona Vortex tripod that will be utilized on complex edge problems and confined space rescues. In addition, the rest of your spare change goes to equipping local First Responders in the Tri-State Area with critical life-saving equipment. Local franchisee, Tom Davidson, owns these six local restaurants and helps manage the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation which has donated over 20 million dollars to 1,467 First Responder organizations across the country.Tom takes great pride in the foundation's success in giving back to the community and CHCRS thanks him for his service. To learn more about the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation visit…/

Cummins Falls Training 3.15.16

posted Mar 28, 2016, 7:07 PM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated Mar 28, 2016, 7:10 PM ]

                                                                                                              The Cave/Cliff Unit participated in a joint exercise at Cummins Falls State Park with the Tennessee State Parks and the Jackson County Rescue Squad. The exercise focused on recreating a single rope high-line failure that occurred during the evacuation of a patient by Park Rangers and the local rescue squad in the summer of 2015. 20 plus rescuers spent the day meticulously recreating the rigging, anchoring, angles and dynamics involved in the original failure in an attempt to repeat the failure and determine the ultimate cause. Taking a scientific approach, CHCRS deployed dynamometers to determine the maximum forces created during the failure. After hours of preparation, a litter was loaded with 470 pounds of test dummies and rope, then deployed. The line was tensioned to approximately 170 degrees with a force of over 7 kilonewtons (approximately 1,575 pounds) before the failure occurred. While 7kn of force is well within the working range of the rope, it was determined that poor rigging at the lower end station allowed the rope to be severed by a sharp edge.

In conclusion, the failure demonstration was successful in educating everyone on the importance of understanding and practicing the fundamentals of high-lines, rigging, rope protection and multiplying forces with angles. The goal of CHCRS participation was to help the responding agencies understand the dynamics behind the failure and to prevent a repeat of this event.

Cave/Cliff Unit Provides Mutual Aid in Rescue from Ellison's Cave 3.26.16

posted Mar 28, 2016, 5:21 PM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated Mar 28, 2016, 7:08 PM ]

Early Saturday morning, the Cave/Cliff Unit was asked to respond to Ellison's Cave on Pigeon Mountain to provide mutual aid to Walker County Cave/Cliff Rescue who was dealing with a patient stranded at the bottom of Fantastic Pit. CHCRS is very familiar with Ellison's Cave, having executed over half a dozen rescues in this popular cave over the last three decades. The most recent was the 23 hour evacuation of a trauma patient from below the 586 foot deep Fantastic Pit in 2013. 

Ellison's Cave is home to the two deepest free-fall pits in the United States. Fantastic Pit is 586 feet deep and is considered the traditional route to the bottom of the cave. Another equally impressive shaft, appropriately named Incredible Pit and measured at 440 feet in depth, allows access to the opposite end of the 11 mile long cave system. The cave's depth, the long rappels and the opportunity for a unique through the mountain trip from entrance to entrance compels adventurers from all over the country to travel to the cave for high risk adventure. Unfortunately, many of these adventures have resulted in difficult rescues and multiple fatalities. All of the fatalities were a result of poor preparation and lack of appropriate rope skills.

Saturday's incident followed the trend of poor preparation and inadequate skills. The result was a patient stranded at the bottom of the United States deepest free-fall pit suffering from exposure and exhaustion. Rescuers entered the cave at approximately 0700 hours and proceeded to Fantastic Pit without knowing the status of the patient. CHCRS Lieutenant Voss was sent down the pit to establish communication with the patient and to perform a medical assessment. Voss found the patient and tended to him until rigging teams comprised of Walker County Rescue and CHCRS members finished rigging the haul system. Communications were established from the top of Fantastic Pit to the bottom using VHF radios. Communications in-cave were then relayed to the surface using military field phones. This allowed Unified Command the ability to monitor progress in the cave and provide support to the 26 rescuers spread throughout the cave performing multiple rigging responsibilities.

At approximately 1045 hours, the rigging team at Fantastic Pit began hauling the patient up the 586 foot pitch using a 3:1 mechanical advantage system. The patient reached the top in 25 minutes. The patient was able to walk under his power to a short 20 foot pitch, where another team lowered him to the base of the Warm-Up Pit. At the Warm-Up Pit, another team of rescuers hauled the patient 125 feet up the last vertical obstacle before the entrance. From the top of the last pit, the patient walked to the entrance under his own power, exiting the cave at 1245 hours. Approximately two additional hours were required for all rescuers and gear to exit the cave safely.

A total of 45 rescuers from Chattanooga - Hamilton County Rescue, Walker County Rescue and Georgia DNR responded and participated in the rescue. The response began at approximately 0500 hours and concluded at 1600. 

CHCRS in The Pulse Magazine 1.29.16

posted Jan 29, 2016, 4:09 PM by CHC Rescue Service

The local alternative news source published an article highlighting the exploits of the Cave/Cliff Unit and the history of CHCRS as a whole. The full article can be accessed from the link below.

Tumbling Rock Cave Rescue 1.16.16

posted Jan 18, 2016, 7:47 AM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated Jan 18, 2016, 8:51 AM ]

The Cave/Cliff Unit was requested for mutual aid by the Jackson CountRescue Squad to assist in the rescue of a teenager who had sustained severe injuries from a rockfall incident in Tumbling Rock Cave in Alabama around 5pm on Saturday afternoon. Approximately 20 members of CHCRS assisted Jackson County Rescue and the Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit in the overnight carryout from deep within the cave system and beyond a series of very tight and difficult crawls. Once the teams had moved beyond the crawls, the remaining 5,000 feet of cave is walking borehole but still required considerable manpower to move the patient across mountains of boulders and down steep grades. The rescue concluded around 5am with the patient being flown to Chattanooga via Lifeforce for medical evaluation and care. The rescue took approximately 12 hours and involved over 50 rescuers in the cave. This is the second cave rescue in the first three weeks of 2016 for CHCRS. 

Tumbling Rock Cave is a popular cave exploration destination for organized cavers, outdoor groups, scouts and novices. The cave is owned by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, a non-profit organization that protects caves and it's inhabitants from development or destruction. The cave has many miles of impressive passage and is one of Alabama's deepest and longest cave systems. It is also home to a rich history that dates back to the Civil War. The cave is novice friendly, but good preparation and adequate equipment is critical to safe, successful exploration of the cave. Explorers lacking the appropriate training or equipment have been subjects of rescues from this cave in the past.

In an interesting and rare twist, CHCRS 
was requested to respond to a second, simultaneous cave incident in Grundy County, TN. The two calls came in five minutes apart. Fortunately, the Coalmont Fire-Rescue Squad was able to handle to incident without CHCRS assistance. This allowed our team to focus on the Tumbling Rock Cave response. 

Simultaneous cave rescues are rare, with the only recorded incident occurring in 2011 when CHCRS responded to a cave rescue in Jackson County, AL and Van Buren County, TN to accidents that occurred within one hour of each other. Unusual events like these are rare as the number of cave rescues annually is 8 to 10 for the entire Southeastern United States. 

Byer's Cave Rescue 1.1.16

posted Jan 4, 2016, 7:40 PM by CHC Rescue Service

The Cave/Cliff Unit was requested to respond to Dade County, GA on New Year's Day to assist multiple agencies in a difficult cave rescue in Byer's Cave on Fox Mountain. Over 25 CHCRS members responded and worked with rescuers from the Dade County Mountain Rescue and Walker County Cave Rescue to successfully extract a critically injured victim of a 30 foot fall deep in the cave. Rescuers worked through the night moving the patient through a series of tight canyons and short vertical drops. South Dade Firefighters and the Georgia Forestry Services worked on the surface to create a road to the cave to accelerate the rescue once the patient reached the cave entrance. Overall, the incident lasted approximately 12 hours. 

June Newsletter

posted Jun 28, 2015, 7:49 PM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated Jun 28, 2015, 7:50 PM ]

It’s been a while since we (read I) welcomed new members to the squad but that isn’t because we haven’t been voting them in, I just haven’t kept up with it.  Here we go, and I apologize if I miss anyone; let me know and I’ll get you next month.  –SK                
Brady Farley, now with the support services unit, moved here from Knoxville and is also with Puckett EMS and the National Guard.      

Jon Oxentenko joined the cave/cliff unit shortly before completing his BS in nursing at SAU.         
Conrad Reichert is also a graduate on SAU with his master’s in outdoor education.  He was a pastor, mostly in the Midwest, before moving south and joining CHCRS on the cave/cliff unit.    

Alicia Nelson is a recent (and very proud) grandmother now officially playing with the cave/cliff unit although she has been cropping up at trainings for quite a few months now – you can usually see her carpooling with Matt Blake, who was also voted to regular membership status during this interim.     
Mike Anthony works for the city (Chattanooga) and brings over ten years of occupational safety experience to the support services unit.        
Jennifer Holland has also joined the support services unit and works as an operator for the local 911 call center.

Chief’s Corner

June has just blown by and July will be here before you know it.  I am sure by the time this is printed July will be here. With that I would like to wish everyone a happy July 4th and hope you have time to spend it celebrating this great country with your family and friends.  I know in previous years there have been firework displays in neighborhoods that have been thoughtful enough to invite our squad. If we receive any invites this year, we will pass them along. I know Soddy-Daisy has a great show and it will be held on July 4th.

Our sign has been refurbished, looks great and is once again hanging.  If you have not been out to the hall in a while please stop in and look at all the hard work and effort that has taken place.  Our front room now looks more inviting and comfortable for all to enjoy.  I have replaced the old computer in the day room with a newer unit which runs Windows 8; this computer is for everyone to use but should have priority for rescue related work.    
I would like to give kudos to Captain Frazier and his team for stepping up and covering a large variety of standbys and rehab calls.  The team has been working hard to make sure these calls are covered in a timely manner and have done so with noticeable improvement.  There was a recent Facebook posting by the Chattanooga Fire Department giving appropriate recognition to the team for all their help and support with rehab.           
The Cave Team recently participated in a large mock rescue with Dade and Walker Counties. The team had a great turn out and worked well to efficiently move the patient out of the cave. The event also had the Support Team participating to help with logistics. Thank you all for your commitment and support to our organization and the community.  It is a pleasure to serve along your side.

-Bob Lewis

P.S. Brad Tipton would also like to take this opportunity to thank the support services unit and specifically Christie Clark and Kevin Frazier for their help with the training.  A fuller account of the event follows below.

A Truly Joint Training
It wasn’t a very early morning as most people would reckon it but for a Saturday it was early enough.  At seven o’clock on the morning of June 13, several members of the cave/cliff unit loaded up into three CHCRS vehicles (there were technically five at this time but the other two will come into play later) and one POV and went down to Georgia. Or should that be up as their destination was Cloudland Canyon?  Either way, they were looking for a soul to save.  Well, not really because this was a mock but you get the idea.  At the meeting area, they were joined by more cave/cliff members who had gone straight to the site and their good friends Lt. Capt. Frazier and Christie Clark in the CHCRS party van. Does it get more “joint” than that?        
Yes, it does because this whole shindig wasn’t even Brad Tipton’s (or Brian’s or Buddy’s) idea but that of Georgia DNR.  But wait, it gets better!  Also involved were Dade County rescue, liaised by our very own Rick Gattone, and Walker County’s Cave rescue team.  It must have been the promise of free food afterwards that brought out so many people on a beautiful Saturday; CHCRS had twenty people there.            
So why all these people?  Maybe a little background would help.  Cloudland Canyon State Park is operated by Georgia DNR and has two caves on its property.  While these caves are gated, they are also available to the public at certain times with permission.  One of the caves has an awkward gate beyond which is a thirty foot drop with an old piece of iron from a now-removed ladder spanning the pit and an acute chimney that likes to try and trap people.  Another section of concern to DNR was an area called The Maze which isn’t terribly maze-y but full of tight bends, low crawls, and plenty of things to climb over.  What would happen if a patient needed to be rescued from back there?  We were there to find out.     
The parking area closest to the cave was, shall we say, limited.  So everyone met at the top, got one last chance to use flush toilets, then headed for the bottom in our van.  Actually, in several trips in our van – Kevin and Christie got really familiar with the route between the top and bottom.  The rescue trucks got to park at the bottom first and there was barely enough space for the van to make its loop by the time everyone was there, especially with the trailer of CHCRS gators.  Which Kevin and Christie also got to make friends with as they exchanged shuttling people from the rim of the canyon to the bottom to shuttling people from the lower parking area to the incident command post in the woods.    
The incident command post was a short walk on a narrow path through poison ivy-laden woods and a slightly longer walk through the same treacherous woods was required to reach the cave.  Now these really were short walks, not just according to cavers but to normal people as well, and took less time than negotiating the cave gate.  Or the drop.  Have I already used the word awkward?  Our scenario was that three people had gone caving but one had put his foot in a hole in the Moon Room and busted his lower leg.  The second person stayed with him while the third exited to call for help.  As the first evac team was entering the cave, word came back that there was actually a second patient in the Mud Room that had a busted ankle and was self-evacuating.            
Now here is where the game of telephone began.  In a mock situation there should be a term or phrase to indicate that something is not part of the mock but for real.  The easiest phrase to use in such a situation is, “for real.”  And somehow this got applied to the second patient.  So Evac Team 1, with the ever eager Dr. Wharton, went in thinking that someone in the situation had really busted an ankle.  When they got to the in-cave comms station, bobbing headlights to the right showed where the “for real” patient was self-evacuating.  But it was quickly established that the term had been misused and the ankle injury was actually part of the scenario and was receiving aid from the initial response team as well, permitting the evac team to proceed to the reported injury.  Another term which it became obvious had been misapplied was the Moon Room.  Yes, the cave had a Moon Room; that was where the in-cave comms was stationed.  But there wasn’t another patient in sight.  No, the other patient was beyond the Moon Room, and The Maze, in his own little pickle.
Not only did the patient manage to break his leg, he did it at the bottom of a sixty-foot pit that was flooded the last six feet or so.  That hadn’t been in the plans.  It was one of the few times the command to “haul fast” had been given as he was on the far side of the pond and the haul team wanted to avoid dunking the patient.  He still got a little wet, as much from positioning himself for the mock as from being rescued, and once his leg was splinted, he was given a chance to warm up by crab-walking to the sked.  You have to love patients who can assist in their own rescue.  Nor was this his last opportunity to warm up.  After being carried and dragged about fifty feet or so, the rescuers and patient came to (dun, Dun, DUN) The Maze.  Yeah, that wasn’t happening without some extreme cave modification and bolt setting so the patient got to crab-walk, hobble, and crawl through that section of the cave.  By which point they were back to the Moon Room where a ferno was waiting and the patient got to ride the rest of the way out.      
For the most part, the rest of the evacuation was pretty straight forward through the cave.  Carrying, dragging, a little lap-passing, a couple turtle-ings, and some belaying up and down slopes, in fairly rapid succession, the patient was brought to the bottom of the pit, where things slowed down again.  Some of the details were still being worked out so the evacuators, over twenty in number, got a chance to take a break and even eat some belated lunch.  With a couple of strategically placed edge attendants to see the ferno safely around, over, and through any obstacles, and a strong haul team outside the cave, the patient went smoothly up the pit.  Negotiating the gate was a little trickier but even that challenge wasn’t as bad as anticipated.  Of course, if the patient had been the size of most of the carry-outs we’ve done in the pocket wilderness and other areas, that would’ve been a different story.              
Did I mention before that the pit had some awkward parts?  Needless to say, it was more than another hour from the time the patient exited the cave until the last participant was through the gate.  Enough time that the patient who was self-rescuing had gone to the top, cleaned up, gotten some barbeque, and returned to the cave.  And his story?  When the initial patient was located, he was by himself, the friend who stayed behind having decided rescue was taking too long to get there and went to call for some help himself.  Except that he got turned around in the Moon Room and headed to the Mud Room.  Apparently he was disoriented enough that he didn’t realize he hadn’t gone through that much mud on the way in until he was already through it and busted himself on the far side.  How bad was the Mud Room really?  Bad enough that Patty Springer, quite probably the most nurturing member of the CHCRS Cave/Cliff unit, after falling in the mud herself, told the patient that if it was just an ankle, he could self-rescue his backside across the mud to the finding party and they would reassess the options from there (although surely in much nicer terms).          
Finally, everyone was out of the cave, out of the woods, and back to the top where the whole training adventure had started.  But with one noticeable difference – FOOD!  Friends of Cloudland Canyon supplied more than enough food with barbeque sandwiches, chips, candy, water, sports drinks, and sodas.  The participants all ate, drank, and were merry, enjoying each other’s company before splitting up and going their separate ways.  By dark, everyone was gone and it was like it had never happened.  Until, between the cave dirt and poison ivy, everyone had to face the loads of wash awaiting them.

Case Cave Mock Rescue

posted Jun 15, 2015, 7:34 PM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated Jun 15, 2015, 8:20 PM ]

Members of both the Cave/Cliff Unit and Support Services participated in a Georgia DNR Sponsored mock rescue at Case Cave in Cloudland Canyon State Park on Saturday. 20 members of CHCRS were in attendance which comprised of nearly half of the total rescuers participating. Walker County Cave/Cliff and Dade County Mountain Rescue also participated in the eight hour exercise. Two mock patients were located, treated and evacuated from the cave. The primary patient was hauled up two pits and transported out the cave in a ferno. 

The mock rescue proved a success and allowed cave rescue resources from the region to work together in a learning environment. The exercise also provided GA DNR with valuable information necessary to develop a pre-plan for executing a future rescue from Case Cave. 

Command Staff Update

posted Apr 27, 2015, 7:15 PM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated May 9, 2016, 9:32 PM ]

Some changes have been made to the reporting structure of the Support Services Division. Joe Brewer has stepped down as Captain of Support Services and resigned from CHCRS.

In addition, the Board of Directors met last Tuesday to review the Annual Election results. During the meeting, the incumbent Chief, Bob Lewis was reappointed for a third term as Chief of CHCRS. Congratulations Chief Lewis on his reappointment and continued dedication to Rescue.

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