If you observe an avalanche, you must be far away from the area, but also you mustn't forget to rescue the victims. Rescuing an avalanche victim is very critical. Here we have some basic guidelines when it comes to avalanche rescue.

1. Don't bring more victims to the area

First thing, is to make sure that the area is safe before of directing the rescue. Verify the regions if the avalanche appeared to have finished and established. Check carefully and observe if there are no further avalanche dangers for your team. If it is not safe to continue, do not attempt to rescue first, it would be more disastrous if the rescuers were to be rescued as well.

When the area is secure, you can direct the rescue. Put an avalanche guard who will alert everyone if another avalanche is on the way. Also, have a signal for your team (a hand signal, whistle, a shout, etc.) so you will be able to communicate to others easily. Remember to make an escape plan for your team if all else fails. The minutes are important during this kind of situation so do not spend too much time on the details. Someone must take charge so that instructions will only come from one source. It is hard to rescue people if the rescuers are arguing, so make sure that a person in authority would be present in the situation.

2. Identify critical information

  • Where was the last position?
    To locate this place could save you a lot of searching on its uphill side and on either side. The victim will be hidden or buried somewhere within a cone that flows from this point down the fall line.

  • Where was the person's entry point into the slide area?
    This point, combined with the last seen area and any surface clues, can help to determine a line-of-flow and a high probability search area.

  • Was there a witness?
    A witness can be helpful, can save time and they can give you important information like the number of people you're looking for and a little description about the victims. They can also provide credible details that the rescuers can rely on. If you have a big group, assign someone to keep track of the witness/es.

  • Are there any surface signs?
    The position of the equipment on the slide path can help in determining the line-of-flow of the victim and his or her possible location. Clues like this might also actually be the victim.

3.Beacon Search

The best way to start a rescue is using a beacon or transceiver. Everyone in the team must have their beacons on so as to receive signal in real time.

If the route is narrow and the rescuers are skilled, one or two persons can conduct a quick and meticulous search of the entire path while the others get their beacons and shovels out. It is a good idea to limit your searchers if you aren't sure if the victim is even wearing a beacon. If he isn't, you'll need people high on the path to begin probing quickly. If they're all at the bottom, you'll waste time waiting for them to hike back up again. Once you've picked up a signal, send more searchers and diggers to help. Probing can also speed up the rescue. Of course, the search should continue if there is more than one buried victim. Clear the victim's head first. You can begin rescue-breathing and CPR while others finish excavating. People who have been buried in an avalanche get very cold and very beaten up. Check for signs of Hypothermia and traumatic injury.

4. Probing

If the victim doesn't have a beacon or some signal, the rescue will be more difficult and the rescue could last long time. Rescuers must now conduct probing. This is done by poking long rods into the snow until you strike the victim. From there, you can dig him out of the snow. He might have dents and bruises from the poking but it is better than being buried in the snow. Examine and quickly probe surface clues. If you find a glove, pull it out - it may have a hand attached to it. Probe high-probability areas; the uphill side of trees in the slide path, the outside of bends in the path, low angle areas of the path, etc. Establish a line-of-flow using surface clues, then set up a probe line at the bottom of this line at the toe of the debris.

5. Course and Fine Probing

The intention of a probe line is to cover the avalanche rubble with a grid of regularly spaced holes. If you are precise in your coarse-probing, you have a 70% chance of striking a buried victim. If you are not careful and exact, the odds are much lower. To conduct a coarse-probe line, space the probers out at 75 cm intervals (hands on hips, elbow to elbow). Someone needs to stand in front to give commands and watch straightness and spacing of the line. Everyone should probe just ahead and between their toes and should probe and move only on command. Here are some tips:

  • If someone discovers a strike, he or she should yell it out, then leave the probe in place. Send a shoveler to dig for whatever was hit. Give the prober a new probe so the line can keep moving (false strikes are not uncommon).
  • Work uphill. Probelines headed downhill are hard to keep straight.
  • A regular Ski Pole with the basket removed works better than nothing.
  • At this point, you're still looking for a live person, so move quickly but precisely!
  • Some probes are really long - just worry about the top six feet, for now.
  • Mark the probed areas.
  • If you have more than 10 probers, you may want to break the group into two probelines working different areas - big lines are hard to control.

If regular probing fails, you will have to use fine probing. This is 95% accurate, but long time is wasted. It's for finding bodies, not living victims. It's quite the same as the coarse probing, but have the line step forward one third as far and probe in front of both toes as well as in between.