All " Mother Earth Underground " "M.E .U."Members are to Read And
Practice these guidelines. Conservation and Safety are Always To be
considered the most important element in ALL of our explorations.
                Ken Gentry, Co-founder Mother Earth Underground

1. General

1.1 Minimum independent party size is four. This is the smallest group
that is able to muster sufficient physical resources for effective
self rescue and provide adequate care should a member become injured
or incapacitated. 1.2 At least one member of the party should hold an
approved first aid certificate and all members to know basic emergency
procedure in case of an accident. 1.3 Every member of the party should
know the correct procedure to follow in summoning help in an

2. Planning

     The points under this heading are the sorts of things a good leader
would consider, irrespective of the scale of the trip. When planning
more ambitious trips, the procedure would be formalized by discussion
with deputy leaders and other party members; whereas on more routine
trips these points would be covered almost as a mental check list. 2.1
Determine what known hazards exist in the cave(s) to be visited. 2.2
Notify any `local' speleological groups of the trip intentions, giving
sufficient notice so they can assist in identifying any hazards or
needs for special equipment. 2.3 Decide minimum equipment requirements
(including emergency equipment and provisions), in the light of
expected hazards and what you plan to do in the cave. Consider if you
have sufficient equipment available for the trip or will the scope of
the trip need to be revised. 2.4 Ascertain the levels of knowledge,
skill and physical abilities of all intending trip members. 2.5
Determine the extent of self-rescue that could be effected by the
party with the equipment available and the time delay to be expected
before a full rescue operation could be expected in case of mishap.2.6
Having regard for the items above, consider the need for `lead up'
training for members, especially if attempting demanding caves in
remote areas. 2.7 Identify members to act as second or deputy leaders
in case the party has to be split. 2.8 Decide under what circumstances
the party will be split. 2.9 Determine critical factors that would
mean abandoning the trip or turning back e.g. weather conditions. 2.10
Decide at what stages of a trip (especially long trips) assessment of
continuing or turning back is to be made. 2.11 Decide on communication
procedures to be used underground. 2.12 Decide expected time for
completion and route to be followed. Add a factor for unexpected
delays and nominate a realistic return time as well as a `commence
search and rescue' time. 2.13 Leave trip details with the appropriate
responsible authority for the region where the trip is planned.

3. Party Leader's Responsibilities

3.1 Ascertain that each member of the party has the knowledge,
abilities, skill and equipment to safely attempt the trip. 3.2 Conduct
the trip in such a way that the party remains as an interconnected
group and the leader is aware of each member's position and condition.
3.3 Ensure that members do not get into situations beyond their
capabilities. 3.4 Check all equipment intended for use in hazardous
situations for suitability and serviceability before every trip. 3.5
Ensure all members know the accepted communications procedures and
calls before each trip.

4. Team Member's Responsibilities

The points under this heading are the sorts of things a team member
would consider, irrespective of the scale of the trip. When planning
more ambitious trips the procedure would be formalized by discussion
with the leader or deputy leader. 4.1 To inform the party leader: a)
of any medical condition that may affect performance. b) if under any
medication, detail dosages, times to be take, location of medication
among equipment, and effects if dosages are missed.4.2 Do not enter a
cave if under the influence of alcohol or other performance-altering
drug. 4.3 Indicate any uncertainty about procedures or equipment use
before entering a cave. 4.4 Know how to use all the safety/vertical
equipment needed for the trip. 4.5 Inspect rigging and associated
vertical equipment before using. (You have the right to ask for extra
back-up, or re-rig the pitch after consulting with the party leader.
Any re-rigging must be checked and OK'd by another party member,
ideally the leader or the person who did the rigging.) 4.6 Ensure that
you are properly equipped for the trip. 4.7 Accept that the party
leader has the final decision as to who is considered properly
equipped, trained and physically fit to be included on the trip.4.8
Accept that the party leader may request to inspect personal equipment
and provisions for suitability.

5. Above Ground Organization

5.1 The following items should be within easy reach of the cave
entrance: a) Fully equipped first aid kit. b) A sleeping bag and
sleeping mat. c) Food, fuel stove, and water. d) Tent (which can be
erected in the cave). 5.2 All members of the party must be able to
gain access to cars carrying support equipment.

6. Equipment to be Carried Underground

6.1 Mandatory personal equipment) Helmet with rigid chin strap (IE not
elastic). b) Reliable and independent primary and secondary light
sources, which should be carried on the person at all times. c)
Adequate clothing for cave attempted. d) Adequate footwear - boots are
recommended. e) Waist tape (5m x 50mm webbing is recommended). f)
Small first aid kit. g) Whistle and penknife. h) Spare globes &
batteries.6.2 Other recommended personal equipment a) Third light
source. b) Self-rescue hardware (ascenders & pulleys) if vertical
caving. c) Prussik loops. d) Extra clothing.e) Space blanket. f)
Triangular bandage and/or compression bandage. 6.3 Mandatory party
equipment (should be carried by the leader): a) First Aid Kit - leave
at the entrance or in the car for short trips; take along on longer
trips. b) Food and water if the cave warrants it. c) Notebook and
pencil. d) Rescue rope and hardware (ascenders & pulleys) if vertical
caving. e) A watch. f) Pocket knife (Swiss army instant repair kit!).

7. Climbing and Calls

* Note that most caving accidents are falls from unbelayed climbing.*
7.1 Any member of a caving party always has the right to request and
receive a safety line. 7.2 Safety lines (belays) should be used on all
pitches where a ladder is more than just a hand-hold. 7.3 There should
only be one person at a time on a climb.7.4 Climbing calls should
always be used. The Party Leader should ensure that everyone
understands and agrees on proposed calls before going underground.
Recommended calls are the "UP, DOWN, STOP" system, as detailed: "UP"
means "I want to come up", "take up slack", "haul up", etc"DOWN" means
"I'm coming down", "pay out more rope", etc "OK" should be used for
any affirmative. "STOP" means quit whatever you are doing - stop
feeding out line, stop hauling up, stop ascending, hold line taut -
and wait for further communication. "BELOW!" is a warning that
anything is falling down toward those below. It does NOT mean "look
up"! An example is as follows:Climber: "UP" or "DOWN" as appropriate
(meaning `I want to come up/down') Belayer: "OK" meaning `on belay,
come up/down' Climber: "SAFE" when finished climbing & off safety line
NB: The word "slack" should NOT BE USED in calls, as it is ambiguous,
and could mean either "up" or "down". Similarly for the word "rope",
which is also ambiguous.7.5 Whistle signals should be used on pitches
where voices cannot be heard (e.g.. near waterfalls). If different
whistle signals are used because of `local rules', each member of the
party should be told what the communication will be before entering
the cave. Recommended signals are: One blast STOP Two blasts UP Three
blasts DOWN Four blasts OK/SAFE One very long HELP!

8. Single Rope Techniques

8.1 Minimum skills required -- 8.1.1 Any person engaging in vertical
caving must be able to tie the following knots" a) Tape knotb) Figure
Eight c) Double Fisherman's d) Prussik knot 8.1.2 All SRT cavers
should be able to tie and use a two-knot prussik system for use in
emergencies. 8.1.3 Cavers must be familiar with equipment and be able
to demonstrate proficiency in the following: a) Fitting of SRT harness
and correct attachment of equipment.b) Crossing re-belays,
rope-protectors and re-directions. c) Changing from descent to ascent
and vice versa. d) Crossing knots - both ascending and descending. 8.2
Equipment --8.2.1 A spare (emergency) rope should always be available
when engaging in vertical caving.8.2.2 Each member of the party should
have their own personal equipment - sharing is unacceptable. 8.2.3 A
helmet with a four-point attachment CHINSTRAP should be worn for any
vertical work, whether above ground or below. A construction worker's
helmet is not suitable for SRT work.8.2.4 Gloves should always be worn
when engaging in SRT work.8.2.5 A knife and whistle on a breakable
lanyard should be carried when engaging in vertical caving. 8.2.6 Both
ascending AND descending equipment should always be carried,
irrespective of which direction you are heading. The gear should be so
arranged that it is ready to be used to reverse direction without
delay. 8.2.7 Two or more ascenders must be attached independently to
the seat harness in an ascending rig, such that if either fails or is
accidentally disengaged, the caver will remain upright. 8.2.8 There
Therefore, a third ascender/cowstails should be used when crossing
rebelays, rope protectors, or transferring to tails at pitch
tops.8.2.9 For abseiling, the use of variable friction devices is
recommended, such as rappel racks and bobbins. Figure 8, Harpoon
devices and the "classic" style are NOT recommended. 8.2.10 If
karabiner/brake-bar devices are used, then a large steel screw-gate
karabiner and extended length piton should be used.8.3 Safety
Checks/Procedures -- 8.3.1 Long hair must be tied back for vertical
work and jewellery should be removed.8.3.2 Rigged ropes should have a
knot tied in the end to prevent accidentally abseiling off the end. A
double Figure-8 with a loop large enough to put your foot in is
recommended. 8.3.3 Every person descending a pitch should check the
rigging for soundness. Pay particular attention to anchor points,
karabiner gates, knots, rope protection and free hang. 8.3.4 Calls
should be used for both ascending and descending.Recommended code is:
Abseiler: "DOWN" When abseiler is clipped into rope and ready to
descend Belayer: "OK" When bottom belayer is ready. If belay is not
being used, then "buddy" gives this response. Abseiler: "SAFE" Once
unclipped from rope and clear of the pitch bottom.
Ascender: "UP" When caver is attached to rope and wishes to
ascend."Buddy": "OK" If safe to ascend. Ascender: "SAFE" To cavers at
bottom when ascent is complete and caver is off rope and clear of
pitch head.

9. Caving in Foul Air

9.1 General Comments Foul air is an atmosphere which contains greater
than 0.5% CO2 and/or lower than 18% O2 by volume. Brief exposure to
foul air will cause a rapid increase in the heart and breathing rates.
Prolonged exposure may have some or all of the following effects on
party members: a) Increased heart and breathing rate b) Lack of
attention to details c) Clumsiness d) Fatigue e) Anxietyf) Severe
headaches and in some cases nausea Exposure to atmospheres containing
greater than 6% CO2 and/or less than 11% O2 can result in
unconsciousness with prolonged exposure - leading to suffocation and
death. These gas concentrations may vary a couple of percent,
depending on the tolerance of the individual, however nobody is immune
to the effects of foul air. The above physiological signs are a good
indication of foul air. The flame extinction test is a simple test
which can confirm the presence of foul air which is dangerous to human
life. The relative O2 concentration by volume that will cause a flame
to extinguish is approximately 15% or less. In general a low O2
concentration which will not support combustion is associated with an
elevated CO2 concentration. An elevated CO2 concentration is generally
the most life threatening foul air scenario found within limestone
caves. The flame test can be undertaken by lighting a match or butane
cigarette lighter or carrying a lit candle into suspected foul air. If
the flame is extinguished, foul air is present. Where possible a
butane cigarette lighter should be used to reduce unpleasant fumes
emitted from matches burnt by people testing air quality in the
confines of a cave. 9.2 As soon as foul air is suspected, a test
should be made by striking a butane lighter. If it will not remain
alight, then the party should immediately begin to exit, but should
NOT PANIC OR RUSH.9.3 If ascending vertical pitches, great care and
thorough checking should be carried out to ensure equipment is
properly attached. 9.4 If abseiling into a cave suspected of
containing foul air the following procedures should be followed; a)
The first person down should use a trailing ascender held open or a
similar device which will lock if the person is overcome by foul air.
Alternatively the person can be slowly lowered by a single top rope.b)
The abseil or lowering rope must be able to be changed to a retrieval
system in the event that the abseiler is overcome by foul air. c) The
first person down the pitch should have foul air experience. They
should make regular checks by stopping and lighting a butane lighter
every few metres of descent and communicate constantly with those
above. 9.5 Beginners or other suffering fatigue and /or anxiety should
be guided, watched and encouraged until out of the cave. 9.6 All
cavers, and most particularly Party Leaders, should recognise the fact
that exposure to foul air has an effect on a person's ability to
function normally. The likelihood of an accident is therefore greatly
increased. All care and precautions should be taken. 9.7 Under special
circumstances such as search and recovery operations, exploration and
scientific work, it may be decided to enter into foul air
deliberately. Under such circumstances the following is recommended:-
9.7.1 In mild foul air where breathing rate is upa) A CO2 tester
should be carried - if nothing else is available, use a lit candle or
frequently test with a butane cigarette lighter. If the flame goes out
- get out slowly. b) Cavers with no experience of foul air should be
introduced to it gradually by an experienced leader. 9.7.2 In foul air
where the flame test fails only experienced foul air cavers should
enter these regions. In addition to the recommendations in 9.7.1; c) A
CO2 tester must be carried eg. a Draeger Gas Analyzer. d) An "oxygen
rebreathing" apparatus should be taken (one kit to four people). The
rebreather set should go down the cave with the first person. 9.7.3 In
cave atmospheres containing greater than 6% CO2 and/or less than 11%
O2, self contained breathing apparatus is necessary and all the
precautions against equipment failure taken in mines rescue and cave
diving should be followed.