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ARMY HIGH ALTITUDE / SNOW WARFARE SCHOOL


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Avalanche Hazards and Rescue Drills


Mountain Warfare Part I
2 Periods (80 Minutes)
Lecture
Class Room
View Graph, Slides, Lecture Stand, Board, Marker

Remarks Subject
Times
Introduction
2 Mins
1.
There are number of dangers / hazards experienced by the
individuals operating in the mountains and particularly in snow bound
areas. Avalanches are one of the main dangers in these areas. Troops
operating in these areas must be taught avalanche hazards and

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thoroughly trained in rescue drills.


Aim
1 Min
2.
The aim of this lecture is to teach you about avalanche hazards
and rescue drills
Avalanche
2 Mins
3.
The danger of avalanches must be carefully considered when
large body move are being conducted in mountains. Avalanches occur
when the weight and pressure of the snow over-comes the power of
resistance and friction of the under layer. Or the tension in the snow
cover is disturbed.
Basic Causes of Avalanches
3 Mins
4. There are two main causes of formation of an avalanche namely
terrain and climate:a. Terrain.
Smooth even slopes of bare earth and solid rocks
favors formation of avalanche. The most common altitude for
avalanche is between about, 2,000 M to 3000 M. Above 3000
M avalanches are comparatively rare because slopes are
generally steeper which do not let the snow accumulate and
winds are very strong which disperse the snow quickly. Gullies
make available slide paths for avalanches. The convex slopes
are likely to avalanche formation is Slide the grade of the slope.
Higher the slope angle more likely it is to slide regardless of
any other condition. The minimum angle favorable to avalanche
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is a slope of 22o. Critical avalanche zones are sheer slopes of
above 25o angles, moreover faces which are exposed to sun
favors avalanches, leeward slope can be likely place of
b.

avalanche.
Climate and Weather.

In addition to the terrain factors, 3 Mins

climate and weather are the other basic causes for the
avalanches. High rate of snowfall and storms which deposit up
to 3 feet of new snow in one continues down pour can form
avalanches. Fluctuation in temperature and rainfall can melt the
lower layers, there by loosening the grip of snow over the
slopes. When its windy, snow is often drifted from one to
another place. Thereby over loading the slopes to the extent of
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creating on avalanche.
5. Additional Causes of Avalanches
a.

Over Loading.

Weight is probably the most frequent

cause of avalanche. New snow piles up until the cohesion


between the mass of the snow and surface of the slope is lost
and the snow structure collapse of its own weight and begins to
b.

slide.
Shearing.

This can happen in various ways i.e. the sliding

action of a pair of skies, award of snow falling out of trees or


cliff footsteps or even whistling can cause an avalanche on
c.

critical slopes.
Temperature.

Temperature causes avalanches more than

any other factor except weight and overloading. Rises in


temperature weaken the bonds while a fall in temp retards
d.

settlement of the snow in contact with the slope.


Vibration. This factor is closely related with shearing. It is
treated separately because it triggers avalanche from long
distance. Avalanche may be released because of thunders,
earthquakes, speeding aircraft explosive etc. Avalanches have
been occurred because of nuclear detonation as far as 20
miles.
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Precautions Against Avalanches
6. If already familiarized with a few rules, safety against avalanches
can be ensured to a great extent. These are rules of common sense
by nature and can reduce the danger of getting caught in
avalanches:a. Adjusting of Equipment. When

negotiating

avalanche

threatened area the straps of ice axe and equipment should be


loosened or removed. It will ensure quick removal of all such
b.

equipment, which can get entangled in a snow slide.


Selection of Routes.
One must know the avalanche
paths. Avoid moving along bottom of a V shaped valley where

c.

double avalanches can descend from both sides of the slopes.


Weather.
Obtain latest weather forecast from best available
source prior to move. During move remain alert for changing of

d.

weather.
Ascend & Descend.

When

avalanche

slopes

are

unavoidable the top of protruding rocks ridges and slopes


e.

should be used for mobility.


Observation and Testing.Area

to

be

traversed,

must

constantly observed for any danger. If situation allows fire a few


f.

rounds before crossing dangerous area.


Proper Timing.
Movement must be carried out at proper
timings. Early morning hours are the safest. Immediately before
or after a snowstorm are the most dangerous times for crossing

g.

avalanche threatened areas.


Proper Distance. When crossing an avalanche area more
and more distance be kept between individuals. Minimum
number of persons should remain for minimum time in an
avalanche area. The leading man can be tied with a rope,
which should be stretched along the party. Visual contact must

h.

be maintained at all times.


Use of Ropes.
On reconnaissance

mission

or

while

testing an avalanche area, one end of brightly colored rope is


tied around the body and trailed behind the individual in the
lead. The minimum recommended length of the rope should be
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60-70 feet.
Action When Caught in Avalanche
8 Mins
7. When caught in avalanche remember most important precept
DONT, PANIC. One must maintain self-control and attempt to stay
on the surface trying to get out of the path of the slide execute
swimming motions grab at any thing, which can support you. Take
off the equipment as quick as possible. If completely covered by
snow slide, keep the hands in front of the face using the snow away
from face in order to provide space for breathing after being buried
under snow.
Avalanche Rescue
8. If an individual is caught in an avalanche prompt and organized
rescue operation offers the only hope for getting the victim alive.
Records are, when a person was recovered alive after remaining
buried for hours, under the snow. Ordinarily the victim is instantly
killed by crushing or dies from exposure to cold, shock of
suffocation. An average man can dies from exposure to cold, shock
of suffocation. An average man can live for 2 hours, without getting
suffocated. However, later victims face suffocating him to death.
Under any circumstance the rescue and search operation must not
be discontinued for minimum 24 hours.
Phases of Rescue Operation
16 Mins
9. There are generally three phases of rescue operation:(1) The already detailed party is alerted. AT, MT and special
equipment is arranged.
(2) Informer or eye witness, if available & knows exact location of
accident. The eyewitness MUST return to the scene of
accident with the rescue party even if in poor physical situation.
(3) The first party is dispatched under command of an officer or
JCO available. This party must not be less than a section. This
party must leave within 15 minutes after receiving first
information.
(4) Party commander posts a sentry near the avalanche for
protection against any other avalanche.
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(5)

The Last seen point is located and marked. Down hill search

is carried out for the victim.


(6) If any indication of the victim is found, probing immediately
commences. If no indication is found probing s carried in likely
places such as obstruction in the slide path; trees, boulders,
cavity etc. The tip and edges of slides are also searched.
(7) If the victims are found first aid and artificial respiration is given.
b. Follow Up
16 Mins
(1) Following the first party a second party should be sent with-in
one hour. This party carries probes, shovels, sleds, WS, ration
etc with them.
(2) The unit commander informs the next higher command of the
accident.
(3) If the first party is unsuccessful, the follow up party begins
systematic probing of the slides, beginning at the tip and
searching up wards to the last seen point probes are spaced
shoulder to shoulder and probe every square foot of the slide.
Probes must be pushed in snow very carefully to avoid any
injury to victim. If the last seen point is known, a special group
may be assigned to probe area around it.
(4) The first party may be relieved by the reinforcement if
necessary.
(5) Shovel crews are organized to assist the carrying out careful
digging of likely places.
(6) Systematic but through search should not take more than 3 to 4
hours.
(7) If trenches have to be dug in deep snow then the operation
should cease to be of an emergency type.

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