New digital safety net to support cave rescuers

Search and rescue operations conducted by the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team (SMWCRT) will be boosted by a new, ultrafast broadband connection to assist with missions and provide more accurate information in desperate times.

The cavers received international recognition last year for rescuing the Moo Pa football team and coach from flooded caves in northern Thailand.

The depot, located right above the Swansea valley in Penwyllt, is set to be fitted with fibre cables directly from the local exchange to allow the rescuers to make the most of its invaluable online rescue technology with some of the fastest internet speeds in the country. It is anticipated that the new connection will allow all 180 cavers to be contacted at the same time at the touch of a button.

The infrastructure will be developed through the Superfast Cymru initiative, funded by Openreach and the Welsh and UK Governments.

Chair of the SMWCRT, Dan Thorne, said: “When we are called out, we have to mobilise the right resources, to the right location in a timely manner.

“Some of our rescues last for days and within that sort of time period you need to plan ahead, swapping team members, sourcing food, checking the weather and dealing with our rescue partners. Having fast and reliable access to the internet will help in almost every aspect of planning for a rescue.

“With an ultrafast broadband connection, which wasn’t available to us until now, our surface controllers can now be based at our depot in Penwyllt and can be confident that the information they need is available in super fast speed.”

Prior to the broadband update, cavers were forced to rely on traditional telephone and paper networks to communicate callouts and rescue attempts. The new ultrafast connections, however, will lessen the time delay and improve the accuracy of location trackers.

Openreach’s Partnership Director for Wales, Connie Dixon, said: “Fast reliable broadband connectivity isn’t just a nice thing to have to download the latest HD film from the comfort of your home in seconds. It can also save lives.”