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Avalanche Rescue


1.         Avalanches are one of the biggest dangers in the mountains for both life and property. These can be avoided by not moving in avalanche prone areas especially after fresh snow fall. In snow bound areas avalanches are one of the major causes of causalties and deaths.
Precautions Before Moving in an Avalanche Prone Area.
2.         Before moving out in snow bound areas the knowledge of ground, slopes and condition of snow is very important as these are the factors which dictate the triggering of avalanche. Few of the points to be kept in mind before moving out in avalanche prone areas are:-
Types of Avalanches
  (a)       There should be no move for 72 hr if there is a snow fall of one foot (30cm) or above.
(b)       No movement should be made on Eastern slopes for 48 h after fresh snow fall.
(c)        Threat of avalanches remains for 72 h on Western slopes as these slopes are less exposed to sun.  
(d)       In case move after fresh snow fall is unavoidable then one has to atleast wait for minimum 24 h.
(e)       Never move alone in avalanche prone areas. Move should always be in a team.
(f)        For a team moving out in avalanche prone area a leader should be selected who should have adequate knowledge of the area and also about avalanches.
(g)       All members of the team should be physically fit.
(h)       Everyone in the team should have adequate warm clothing.
(j)         Team should have means of communication.
(k)        Each member of the team should carry the following items :-
    (i)         Avalanche cord.
(ii)        Avalanche victim detector(AVD), set on ‘Transmit’ mode.
(iii)       Avalung jacket.
  (l)         Items to be carried by the team:-
    (i)         Avalanche rod.
(ii)        Snow shovel.
(iii)        First aid kit.
(iv)        Emergency rations.
(v)        Stove.
(vi)       Tents.
(vii)      UT 2000/Stretcher.
Selection of Route in an Avalanche Prone Area
3.         Following points should be kept in mind while selecting a route in an avalanche prone area:-
  (a)       Route should be along the ridge line. Avoid walking on cornice.
(b)       Team should not move laterally across an avalanche prone slope, it should move straight up, then cross the avalanche prone slope from the highest point and then move straight down.
(c)        If possible route should pass through trees, bushes and boulders.
(d)       There should be no cornice above the route selected.
(e)       Avoid route along a nala or a very narrow valley.
Avalanche Slope Crossing Drill
4.         A team moving in an avalanche prone area should follow the following drills while crossing avalanche prone slopes:-
  (a)       If the party is roped up for the move then they should unrope before crossing the avalanche prone slope.
(b)       Detail two look out men. Lookout men carry whistles with them to give a warning in case avalanche comes.
(c)        Cover mouth with balaclava.
(d)       Avalanche cord is tied to the body with arrow facing inwards. The cord is thrown behind before the slope is crossed.
(e)       Avalanche victim detector is set at ‘Transmit’ mode.
(f)        Mouth piece of avalung jacket is kept close to the mouth.
(g)       Slope should be crossed one by one.
(h)       No noise should be made as sound can also trigger an avalanche.
Actions carried out when caught  in an Avalanche
5.         Following actions should be carried out by a person stuck in an avalanche.         
  (a)      Drop the load and try to run out of the runout zone of avalanche.  
(b)      If trapped in an avalanche then try swimming action, this may keep a person on top of the snow.
(c)       Make an air pocket with both the hands in front of the mouth. Place mouth piece of avalung, if carried on person.
(d)       With the help of spit try knowing the direction of sky.
(e)       Keep moving arms and legs to come up and shout for help.
(f)        Do not lose hope and DESIRE TO LIVE.
Avalanche Rescue Drills
6.         Time is a very important factor for avalanche rescue. To take out an avalanche victim alive from the debris, it is very important to start search operation as early as possible. If one or two members of the team get buried under avalanche then remaining members of the team should immediately start the search. Look out men should keep observing the slope as more avalanches can get triggered from the same place. Actions carried out by team leader during search are:-
  (a)      Report the matter to the nearest post and pass the location and number of people who are missing.  
(b)      Team leader confirms the location where lookout men have seen the victim last and then marks that area by using flags.
(c)       Remaining members of the team search the marked area.
(d)       Set the setting of AVD to ‘Receive’ mode for early detection of buried members
Searching Victim Using Avalanche Victim Detector (AVD)
7.         If the victim was carrying an AVD then use of AVDs by search team is best method for rescue in shortest possible time. AVD can detect another AVD within the radius of 50 m and upto the depth of 20 m. It gives direction, distance and number of persons buried within the radius of 50 m. With the help of AVD victim can be searched in two ways :-
  (a)       Rough Search.         Rescue team put their AVD on receiving mode and move along the marked slope and cover the complete slope in a very short time. In rough search if victim’s AVD is detected then the chances of his survival are maximum.
(b)       Fine Search.             In fine search the complete rescue team stands in a line facing the marked slope keeping AVD to AVD distance of 45 cm. On the orders of team leader all members of rescue team set their AVDs on receiving mode and move on the marked slope step by step keeping AVD 4 to 6 cm above the ground. Whichever AVD picks up the signal of victims AVD he report it to the leader of rescue team, then the leader mark the place where the strength of signal is maximum and that place is dug to recover the victim.



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The Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (JIM&WS)

Address:  Nunwan Pahalgam (J&K)
Telephone:    01936-243129

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