Österreichische Höhlenrettung Bundesverband (ÖHR-BV) / Austrian Cave Rescue Association

About the Organization

The Austrian Cave Rescue Association is a voluntary, publicly recognised rescue organisation. It is integrated in the federal crisis and disaster management, which is situated in the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The main responsibilities of the Austrian Cave Rescue are the initial medical care as well as the rescue and transport of people in need of help (injured, ill or otherwise unable to leave the underground independently) from caves or cave-like subterranean objects (abandoned mines, burrows, etc.) to a safe location overground. Additional duties of the Austrian Cave Rescue are (i) the participation in assistance operations of local, regional or federal authorities or other rescue organisations, (ii) representation at authorities or public events and (iii) advisory and teaching functions regarding accident prevention and rescue training in local Austrian speleology clubs.

The Austrian Cave Rescue is divided into the federal umbrella organisation (Bundesverband) and 6 individual state organisations (Landesverband), which cover the whole federal territory of Austria in close cooperation. The state organisations are further subdivided into local operational units (Einsatzstelle), each equipped with comparable equipment.

Currently, around 300 rescuers in 17 local units are available on call. Austrian cavers are naturally well-trained in single rope techniques since many of our labyrinthic caves contain plenty of vertical passages and shaft crossings. The training program of the Austrian Cave Rescue is based on a modular system: First, prospective cave rescue candidates undergo basic training until full recognition. Thereafter, the individual skill set is further expanded by several trainings in orientation, communication and advanced first aid. Comprehensive education in advanced technical rescue skills is offered as well. All in all, Austrian cave rescuers are trained to enable the safe transport of injured people through extensive, deep and long cave systems via complex technical installations, as needed. After finishing the initial training program, our cave rescuers participate in regular refresher trainings and practical exercises. The Austrian Cave Rescue also includes a team of cave rescue divers. The Austrian Cave Rescue was founded in 1965, after the deadly accident of Kurt Schneider in Gasteiner Tal (Salzburg). After tremendous efforts from colleagues from the Upper Austrian Cavers Club (Landesverein für Höhlenkunde in Oberösterreich) together with the local mountain rescue, the body could be finally retrieved. It was however noted that the cavers were not enough trained in basic rescue techniques. Hence, the foundation stone for an organised cave rescue was finally laid in a meeting in Linz (Upper Austria). Emergency plans, material lists and guidelines were created and soon after, the first cave-compatible rescue stretcher was developed. In 1991, the federal umbrella organisation was founded by the state organizations of Upper Austria, Salzburg and Styria. Today, Carinthia, Lower Austria and Tirol are members as well. Since October 2015, the Austrian Cave Rescue Association is a full member of the ECRA, the European Cave Rescue Association.

Karst and Caves

The Austrian Cave Registry contains more than 15.000 known caves. Many of them were formed within the Northern Limestone Alps (Eastern Alps). Particularly the Totes Gebirge, with 1.130 km² the largest continuous limestone karst area in Central Europe, has an immense density of extensive cave systems. Currently, three caves in Austria have a total length of more than 100 km (Schönberg-Höhlensystem, 153 km; Schwarzmooskogel-Höhlensystem, 135 km; Hirlatzhöhle, 113 km), six caves more than 40 km and at least 31 caves are longer than 10 km (as of Oct-2021). Currently, 18 caves are deeper than 1,000 m and more than 250 caves have a vertical difference of at least 200 m (as of Oct-2021). 26 independent caving clubs, associated with the Austrian Speleological Association, explore and document caves or other subterranean objects. 32 Austrian show caves are also open to the general non-caving community.


Cave rescue operations in Austria cause substantial costs since all involved organisations have to cover the incurred expenses. Speleologists are therefore recommended to take out insurance for a rescue from subterranean objects. Cavers, who are members of an Austrian caving club, hold a basic insurance for these circumstances through the umbrella organisation VAVÖ (Verband alpiner Vereine Österreichs).


General contact address: office@oehr.at

Erich Hofmann (president)
Tel: +43 680 2442550
E-mail: erich.hofmann@oehr.at

Emergency Call: 140

Web: www.oehr.at

Social Media: www.facebook.com/hoehlenrettung