Programme Idea- Cave Rescue


A couple of weeks ago we did a Cave Rescue simulation.

It’s an interesting exercise in seeing what your young people value and admire and how they make decisions.

This is a team based activity, suitable for Scouts and Explorers.

word-iconCave Rescue

The teams are members of an international research management committee that is funding projections into human behaviour in confined spaces.

You have been called to an emergency meeting as one of the experiments has gone badly wrong.

Eight volunteers have been taken into a cave system in a remote part of the country, connected only by a radio link to the research hut by the cave entrance. It was intended that the volunteers would spend four days underground, but they have been trapped by falling rocks and rising water.

The only rescue team available tell you that rescue will be extremely difficult and only one person can be brought out each hour with the equipment at their disposal. It is likely that the rapidly rising water will drown some of the volunteers before their rescue can be undertaken.

The volunteers are aware of the dangers of their plight. They have contacted the research hut using the radio link and said that they are unwilling to take a decision as to the sequence by which they will be rescued. By the terms of the research project, the responsibility for making this decision now rests with your committee.

Life-saving equipment will arrive in 50 minutes at the cave entrance and you will need to advise the team of the order for rescue by completing the Ranking Sheet.

The only information you have available is drawn from the project files and is reproduced on the volunteer personal details sheet. You may use any criteria you think fit to help you make a decision – but bear in mind that you may have to justify your selection to the families of the volunteers and the press.

To add some interesting factors, why not construct a cave system from tables and chairs and have your teams make their decisions from within? Close confines makes heated debate much more challenging!

Afterwards, it’s fun time for you as a leader! Question the teams about their choices and how they came to them and ensure they have taken the task seriously. Think about how you can make teams second guess their choices and see if they stick to their original choices. Ask different questions of each group so they can’t

Some fun questions depending on who they picked:

  • “Tozo is very young and potentially has much longer to live, why did you put her so low?”
  • “What about Helen’s young children?”
  • “Owen risked his life in the armed forces and saved hundreds of lives in his service- why aren’t you scoring him higher?”
  • “Paul’s research may save hundreds of lives- why has he scored so low?”
  • “You know nothing about Chris. Why did he score so high/low?”
  • “Edward employs 71 people who may all lose their jobs and homes- why is he towards the bottom of your list?”
  • “Edward is older, with all the others having a longer life expectancy. Why did you choose to save him?”
  • “What makes you think that a couple of paragraphs can tell you enough about a person to play god and make any sort of life or death decisions about them? Why didn’t you pick at random to give everyone the same chance?”

This is your chance to really put them on the spot. Whilst their is no right or wrong answers here, how they reached their decisions and how they justify them later is very interesting. Talk through how they found the task and the questioning after and how it made them feel.

Most of all, despite the serious nature of the task, don’t forget the main thing is to have fun!


Dan is a Scouter in Sheffield and the very proud leader of Norfolk District Explorers. When not running the Explorers, he also runs the group website, is the Assistant GSL, County Brand Adviser, Exec Member and Young Leader Co-Ordinator. Somewhere in the middle of all that he finds time for a full time job, wife and daughter. Dan and Becki met through Scouting together and she is more understanding than most about the adventures and mud!

Posted in Programme Idea

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