While avalanche avoidance and hazard mitigation should be paramount, there is always some degree of risk while traveling in avalanche terrain. It is for this reason that a solid understanding of avalanche phenomena should go hand in hand with personal and group proficiency in the use of avalanche safety equipment.
Companion rescue is the best chance of survival!
Companion rescue is the victim’s best chance for survival, which makes avalanche rescue skills essential when travelling in avalanche terrain. Furthermore, rescue scenarios must be pre-planned and practiced so that the on-site response is fast, safe and efficient!
- European statistics show that survival chances for full burials are 91% if the victim is found within the first 18 minutes.
- The chance of survival falls very quickly after 18 minutes, reaching 30% or so for burials of 30 - 40 minutes.
Contacting outside help is important!
- Contacting outside assistance can happen rapidly if you are adequately prepared with the appropriate equipment. Mobilization and travel time to your location could take hours and potentially days due to weather and geography and availability of resources. The only real hope for people buried in an avalanche is rescue by their companions. Once rescued from the burial the person may have suffered significant injury and/or lost critical travel equipment and outside assistance, although not readily available, could be critical to your survival.
- Rescue services across Canada vary widely; some having avalanche rescue training and immediate access to helicopters while others may not be as well positioned to provide a rapid response.
What to do if caught in an avalanche
Calling for Outside Help is Important! When and how can make life and death differences. Rescue of your companions should not be delayed even for a minute or two. Equally important - once you have taken care of the immediate companion rescue prioirities, outside help should be called without delay.
Here is a great reference document that helps you call for outside rescue no matter where you are in Canada: