The British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) was formed in 1967 as the representative body for bona fide volunteer underground rescue organisations in the British Isles. Its functions include representing and supporting its members at National and International level, promoting the exchange of information between member rescue organisations and providing a common voice for them. It is a coordinating and not a governing body. Individual cave rescue organisations remain entirely autonomous and independent.
The responsibility for inland rescue rests in general with the police under their general public order powers and responsibilities. In practice, the police do not have the training, resources or expertise to conduct rescues in caves and disused mines in the British Isles. They rely on the sixteen volunteer underground rescue organisations that are members of the British Cave Rescue Council.
These organisations have over 1,000 volunteer rescuers available together with a large supply of specialised equipment. They also have the organisational structures, expertise and experience to carry out and coordinate underground search and rescue operations in their geographic areas of responsibility when requested to do so by the police.
The rescuers themselves are all experienced cavers who have volunteered to undergo additional training in underground rescue techniques and many have additional specialist skills such as casualty care training or underwater diving ability. Although the work is undertaken principally in limestone areas, disused mines and other underground features can be found throughout the United Kingdom. Responsibility for supporting the various police forces is divided amongst the member organisations so that each police force has an underground rescue organisation upon which it can call.
Main image: Cave rescue action by Kelvin Lake, John Smith, Ian Cooper