Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (hereafter referred to as SCCi) is an organization committed to acquiring and protecting caves throughout the Southeast – and further, dedicated to providing recreational access and caving opportunities for everyone. The Charles B Henson Preserve at Johnsons Crook is available for your recreational and/or educational use. Most cave visits are unsupervised by SCCi with participants “on-their-own;” occasionally, guided group tours are offered. SCCi feels it is important that Adult Participants, Minor Participants, and Parents/Guardians of Minor Participants (hereafter referred to as Participant/Parent) understand that there are inherent risks associated with caving.
It is important that the Participant/Parent understand SCCi caves are not like the developed, maintained, and well-lighted commercial caves with which you are familiar; there are no paved paths with handrails and steps. SCCi caves are unimproved caves containing many dangers and inherent risks which can include, but are not limited to, the following: Terrain hazards include, but are not limited to, wet slippery floor surfaces, irregular and uneven footing, loose rocks, narrow ledges above deep drop-offs, open unprotected deep pits, pits that can be entered and exited only by rappelling climbing a rope, loose/falling rocks, potential cave-ins, and tight spaces requiring one to crawl. There have been accidents and fatalities from falling into naturally occurring pits. Do not go near a pit edge unless you are trained in safe rope descending and ascending techniques. Do not get close to any area where there is a drop off to the bottom. Be very cautious and careful. Isolation dangers include, but are not limited to, the cave is not manned by supervisory personnel, no one is here to warn you of specific dangers, medical or rescue help may be no closer than the nearest town, no quick medical help for a critical injury, and your cell phone will not work in the cave and probably will not work in the preserve. Equipment failures can include, but are not limited to, harnesses, ropes, bolts, or ascenders may break, equipment can be lost in a stream or pit, and your light can get wet and fail. External rainy conditions affect cave conditions; even at the best of times, caves can be cold, damp, and wet – rain outside the cave can make these worse causing increased seepage, more hazardous footing, flowing water, mud, and flash flooding. Mental considerations include, but are not limited to, the possibility of claustrophobia, panic, and disorientation; these can result from or be magnified if one is lost, gets separated from friends, or has a body part entrapped in a tight place. Animal or micro-organism life in the cave includes danger presented by snakes, ticks, spiders, rodents, mold, fungi and other wildlife. Water risks can include, but are not limited to, encountering flowing streams of water, deep pools, and flash floods. Finally, human error risks present an ever-present danger to the caver. These include, but are not limited to, participant actions or co-participant actions such as over-exertion, caving without experience or help, failure to have adequate equipment, inattentiveness, horseplay, using bad judgment, not following basic caving safety rules, and failing to recognize potential dangers. Other human error risks involve tour leader actions. These include, but are not limited to: inadvertent inattentiveness; temporary distraction; insufficient instruction; and failure to adequately warn. Note that all tour leaders are volunteers with caving experience, but have no special training regarding tours. Because of this, errors in judgment regarding progression, injury identification, teaching techniques, use of equipment, participant readiness, or emergency care may occur.
SCCi feels that it is important that the Participant/Parent understand that three types of injuries can occur. Minor injuries are the most common and include, but are not limited to, muscle soreness, headaches, sprains, abrasions, cuts, blisters, and bruises. Serious injuries are less common, but can occur occasionally. They include, but are not limited to, broken bones; concussions; hypothermia, joint injuries (e.g., torn ligaments, tendons, or cartilage), and breathing problems (e.g., histoplasmosis) from microorganisms, fungi, and mold. Catastrophic injuries are rare; but SCCi feels that every Participant/Parent should be aware of this possibility. These infrequent injuries include, but are not limited to, heart attack, stroke, permanent disability, brain injury, paralysis, blindness, and death (including by drowning).