During this Avalanche Accidents page, you will learn the fundamentals of an accident and the time scale you have to dig out a buried victim, it’s important to learn the correct equipment techniques
- 1. Avalanche Accident
- 2. Help from Companions
- 3. Search Techniques (Signal Search, Coarse Search, Fine Search)
- 4. Probing Location (How to probe Correctly)
- 5. Digging Out (How to Shovel Correctly)
- 6. First Aid
1. Avalanche Accident
2. Help from Companions
- If the accident was observed, you should note the point of disappearance (1) and coordinate the rescue operation without delay.
- If there are several helpers, one alerts the rescue service (EU 112/US 911).
- All helpers switch their transceivers to search.
- The search area (2) starts at the point of disappearance (1) or at the avalanche back–up area.
3. Signal Search
- First, you should search the avalanche deposit with your eyes and ears for objects or partially buried victims
- At the same time, start the signal search.
- Depending on the number of helpers, the avalanche deposit is searched in parallel (search strip width max. 20m or 64ft), or by meandering with one person searching.
4. Coarse Search
- Modern, digital 3-antenna avalanche transceivers will show you the direction.
- You just have to follow the direction arrow!
- Distances that get smaller indicate that you are getting closer to the victim.
5. Fine Search
- When 2-3 meters (6–10 feet) away from the victim, hold the device as close as possible over the surface of snow and search crossways until you find the lowest value.
- This value displayed equates to the victim’s depth. You should ideally mark this point using crossed poles or a shovel.
How to Probe Correctly:
- Starting from this point, probe the area systematically from the inside to the outside in the 25cm (~10in) grid spacing down.
- Performed if beacons are not worn or not functioning.
- Probe up to 6 feet deep (1.5 meters) in likely burial spots.
- These include the fall line below last-seen-area; around the
- victim’s equipment on the surface; above and below rocks &
- trees; depressions, curves, and the toe of the debris pile.
- Studies show that avalanche victims rarely survive below 6
- feet (1.5 meters). Therefore a live recovery is more likely if
- you probe more areas than if you probe deeper.
- Recommended probe length: 2 to 3 meters.
Beacon Search Probing
- The pinpoint search (within three meters) is the trickiest part of a beacon search.
- A probe can quickly confirm the location and depth of burial.
- Probes with depth markings aid in determining exact depth and in determining the appropriate excavation area size.
- From your lowest distance reading, probe 10 in (25cm) apart in an expanding spiral pattern.
- Since the pinpoint search is done along the snow surface, insert probe perpendicular to the surface, not straight down
- After striking the victim, leave in place and start shovelling downhill of the probe.
- Recommended probe length: 1.8 to 3 meters.
How to Shovel Correctly
- After reading the depth of the victim using the snow probe move downhill
- Start digging a trench into the snow towards the victim.
- The trench should be the same length as the depth of the victim
- This is to allow space to clear previously dug snow.
- If multiple shovelers are available then one person should be digging down at the point of the probe and the other people or person should be clearing snow out of the trench to allow room.
- These roles should be rotated to keep shovelers fresh.
- Following extrication, snow should immediately be removed from the mouth and airways, and lifesaving measures should be initiated (breathing, consciousness, circulation).
- Do not move the victim more than necessary, and warm him/her gently, while preventing further cooling. A hole made by shovelling serves as good protection from the wind when positioning the victim.
- Give the victim warm, sugary liquids
- Carry away gently
Please click the image tabs below to find out more about our Snowsafe Avalanche Safety Centre