Friday, January 27, 2012

Avalanche Shoveling Technique

One of the most overlooked techniques in avalanche rescue is how one shovels.  This is the most time consuming part of any avalanche rescue.

The following video was put together by Backcountry Access, a company that develops avalanche beacons, shovels, probes and backpacks.

Following is a review of the key points from the video:

Technique for Rescue with One Person
  1. Start downhill of the probe strike.
  2. Make the hole approximately a wingspan wide.
  3. Begin shoveling 1.5 times the burial depth downhill.
  4. Save energy by shoveling snow to the sides of the pit.
  5. Once you have dug down to a point where the snow surface is above your waste, begin to shovel the snow downhill.
  6. Attempt to get at the victim's face as soon as possible.
  7. When you get to the victim, uncover the head and chest and establish an airway.
  8. Only leave the scene for help if there is a surplus of manpower or the victim has been excavated.
Technique for Rescue with Two People
  1. In a shallow burial (less than 1 meter) start shoveling just downhill of the probe.
  2. In deeper burials one rescuer should start just downhill of the probe.  The second rescuer should start to dig downhill 1.5 times the burial depth.
  3. Rescuers should shovel snow to the sides until the hole is waist deep. Once it becomes necessary to lift snow above your waist, then start shoveling the snow downhill.
  4. If the victim is unconscious when you reach him, the first thing that you should do is to clear the airway and begin CPR.
This element of an avalanche rescue is often overlooked.  But it is an extremely important part of rescue process and should be practiced alongside the use of a beacon and a probe.

--Jason D. Martin

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