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The Avalanche Safety Experts
Performing A Rescue

PERFORMING A RESCUE

Be prepared for the worst

What To Do If You're Caught In An Avalanche

• Yell so others can hear and see you. Try to get their attention.

• If possible ride to the side of the moving snow.  Get a way from the avalanche center.

• Deploy your avalanche airbag (avalanche airbags have a 98% survival rating)

• Fight with maximum effort to stay above the surface.

• As the snow slows, thrust a hand upward above the snow surface if possible.

• Before the snow stops, try to clear airspace in front of your face.

• If you end up buried, do not panic! Stay calm and try to relax.

KEY INDICATORS

Last Seen Point - The last point of visual contact eliminates all of the area above.  This will be the begin point of your search.

Don't Forget to Look for Surface Signs (Protruding Gear, Rocks, and Trees)

Lowest Reading - The Closet Reading to a Victims Beacon.  Start probing here.

If A Buddy Triggers A Slide

• Be Alert - Watch the victim(s) as they are carried down the slope. (Look for the "last seen point").

• Ensure that the area is safe from other slides before beginning your search.

• Delegate tasks:  Visual Search, Beacon Search, Probing, & Shoveling

• Beware of "Tunnel Vision" - don't focus solely on the beacon readings.  Always remember to look for important visuals right on the surface.

• When a victim is located, confirm depth and location with a probe.

• Shovel strategically: begin downhill of the victim. 

Orchestrating A Rescue

You just witnessed the horror of watching a buddy get swept under by a massive avalanche, now what?  If you were alert, attentive, and followed the instructions above you should have at least some idea of where to look.

Searching:

After checking for any other danger begin travel to the "Last Seen Spot", you will begin searching from there down.  On your way perform a "Spot Search".  Quickly analyze the surface of the avalanche zone looking for any indication as the whereabouts of the victim (Gloves, Clothing, etc.).  Begin a "Signal Search" in the area where the person is most likely buried (either the "Last Seen Spot", near protruding gear, rocks & trees, or the toe of the avalanche).

Begin your Signal Search.  Start close to where the person may be buried or the last-seen location.  Work your way down the mountain in switchbacks no more than 40 meters (130ft.) from each other and 20 meters (65ft.) from either side of the slide zone.

If there are multiple searchers, spread out no more than 40 meters from each other; work your way down the fall line (the line a round ball would roll down if the slope was free from obstructions).  Move fast and look for clues along the surface.  Use your beacon to find and lock a signal.  If you do not have a beacon continue with a spot search & probing.

Once you have locked a signal, follow the directional arrows and distance readings toward the victims transmitting signal.  This is called a "Course Search".  Avalanche beacons will often lead you on a curved path to the victims location.  Remember to move fast until the distance reading displays 3 meters.

At 3 meters start a Fine Search.  Slow down and pay close attention to your distance readings.  Get as close to the snow surface as possible and find the lowest distance reading.

Once you've located the lowest reading, fine-tune your search.  At the snows surface move your beacon in a perpendicular path similar to a plus(+) or "X" and find the next lowest reading.  When the new reading is found start probing.  Probing & Shoveling Guide.  When the victim is found DO NOT remove the probe.

Excavating:

Once you have struck the victim with your probe begin digging.  Start your dig away from the probe at 1.5x the depth reading. Dig downhill from the probe strike - this makes it easier to remove snow from your hole and further prevents the hole from collapsing in on itself.  Try to uncover the victims head and create an airway as quick as possible.  Refer to the Probing & Shoveling Guide for a more detailed explanation.

Medical Care & First Aid

Avalanche rescues don't stop when a victim has been found and their head uncovered.  Avalanches can be incredibly traumatic events with head and back injuries, respiratory failure, and other life-threatening injuries.  It is important to understand the principles of First Aid, CPR, and simply where to begin. Learn First Aid 

If necessary, decide if you need to evacuate the victim and protect them from the elements.  Be prepared to treat common avalanche injuries and transport a victim to the hospital.

Airway

Avalanches can pack a person's nose and airway with snow and debris.  Once you have located and dug out your victims face, clear the airway.  Check their nose, mouth, and throat for blockage.

Breathing

Make sure the victim is breathing.  Uncover their chest, is it moving with each breath?  Remove your gloves and check if you can feel air moving out from their nose or mouth.  If the victim isn't breathing you must breathe for them.  Give the victim a breath every 4-5 seconds and perform CPR.

Circulation

Avalanches can be extremely violent.  Check your patients pulse, do they have a heartbeat? Check for bleeds and punctures.

Back & Spine Injury

If the victim is complaining about a back or head injury or you have reason to believe they have a serious injury avoid moving them.  Contact Search & Rescue.

Evacuation

If the victim is seriously injured, unconscious, or unable to evacuate on their own, contact local rescue crews for help with extraction.