For anyone that decides to venture off of the main slopes and on to off-piste territory, chances are you will be aware of the potential dangers of avalanches. Getting caught up in one means that you're swept off your feet and taken downhill in a massive amount of snow; and once you come to a stop, you're buried underneath a hard and compact blanket of snow, ice and debris. Being buried is scary - time is ticking for your chance of survival (if you're not already unconscious) and your friends can't see where you are to help...
Avalanche transmitters are not just an optional accessory; they are an important life-saving device. Having an avalanche transmitter means that you can begin your own 'search and rescue' in which it usually takes around 15 minutes (chance of survival decreases rapidly after this time) to unbury a trapped victim once found.
Did you know that if you are in France, it takes on average 45 minutes for the search and rescue team to arrive at the scene? This is simply too late when you take in to account that 75% of trapped victims will not survive after being buried for longer than 15 minutes. So whether you're snowboarding, skiing, walking, climbing, snowshoeing or any other off-piste activities, make sure you have an avalanche transmitter ready to hand.
What is an Avalanche Transmitter?
An avalanche transmitter is a small, lightweight 'pocket' styled device that weighs around 200g and costs around £170 for a basic device, ranging up to £500 for a more advanced model. However, the cost of the device is irrelevant - they are only as efficient if the user knows how to work them correctly, therefore it is vital that you practice using it beforehand and know all the features. Don't leave it until you're in an emergency.
Types of Transmitter
When purchasing an avalanche transmitter, there are two different kinds to choose from; analogue and digital. Both of these types operate on the standard 457 KHz frequency. The difference between the two types is that the digital device provides the user with an audio signal indicating their direction and distance; whereas the analogue device has a gain control that is manual. The digital device may also include flashing indicators to indicate signal strength and other additional features.
If you aren't sure what type of device would be best suited for you, visit a specialist store and ask for their professional advice.
Probes and Shovels
Having a probe and shovel are not always considered essentials, although like the transmitter, they are vital and can dramatically reduce the time it takes for search and rescue. Probes are used to find the exact location of a buried victim and will provide the rescuer with their exact depth under the snow; whereas the shovel is used to dig the person out.
Without a probe, it is quite difficult for the rescuer to identify the exact place where they should be digging; this could mean that they are digging in the wrong place which adds on valuable time to the total rescue. To give you an idea of the importance of using snow devices, on average the rescue takes:
The times above reflect the total time it took since the first transmitter signal was received to the trapped victim being recovered. If you are found by a professional or more experienced rescuer, then the times will be shorter.
Times will vary depending on the depth of the victim under the snow and if there any other obstructions.
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