Companion rescue in avalanches

Companion rescue card page 1

Avalanche First-Aid
Companion rescue – Pertinent medical matters. 1) Dig the head out first • Dig horizontally towards the victim. • Look for air pockets and check patient’s airways. Check airways • Remove snow from mouth and throat. • Loosen tight clothing around the neck.

Companion rescue card page 2

Selected regulations from Norwegian safety regulations:UD 2-1 pkt 8.2.10 – 11: • Movement on ice must be authorised by the unit CO. • Thorough recce. • Ascertain the thickness (Steel ice) • Minimun of 2 men must work together. • Equipt with: ice auger, axe, ice picks, snow shovel, tape measure and 25 m of rope. • Recce the complete route, including entry and exit points. • Distance between test ice drilling holes must be 13m wide and 10m in length. • Movements over regulated waters should be avoided. Special conditions For personnel on foot, on snowshoes, on skis or on snowmobile the following adaptations apply: One hole for measuring is drilled every 25 metres along the entire route, the holes are to be drilled 1-2 metres to the side of the route, always downstream from the route. Minimum distance from firm ground to the first and the last hole is 10 metres. Requirement of ice thickness: The bullet points below are prevalent for solid steel ice on fresh waters. Driving speed of 15-20 km/t, one way traffic. • Soldier on foot, snowshoes or skis. Max 140kg =10 centimeter with 10 meters between personnel. • Soldier on foot, snowshoes or skis. Max 240kg =15 centimeter with 10 meters between personnel. • Skidoo with 2 soldiers without a sledge. Max 650kg = 25 centimeter with 30 meter between vehicles • Skidoo with 2 soldiers with a sledge. Max 1200kg = 30 centimeter with 30 meter between vehicles Factors that will influence ice conditions • Mild autumn combined without groundfrost. • Early snow fall. • Surface water. • Multiple ice layers with or without surface water. • Ice and snow mixed together/ slush or excessive air in the ice. • Water courses (inlet and outlets, currents, whirlpools, around headlands) • Narrow areas where the current increases.

The avalanche has stopped. Those unaffected by the avalanche must immediately start the partner rescue. TIME IS CRITICAL! 1) Organising the team • Report the accident. • 1 person takes the lead: short SITREP. Issue tasks. • RA for further potential avalanches. • Transceivers set to SEARCH. • Establish a Control Point (CP) for access and egress. Mark with skis and poles. Redundant equipment (skis, pulks and large bergans) placed at CP. • Keep small rucksacks on your back and bring shovels and avalanche probes. • Transceiver search and surface search start concurrently. Surface search: rapid and thorough • Mark the first and last points where the victim was seen. • Run through, scan surface. • Thorough surface search: arm length apart, move snow blocks. • Probe search of all finds. • Items controlled and marked but not moved. • Loud communication throughout is important: SEE, SHOUT, LISTEN!! Transceiver search(concurrently with surface search) • All Transceivers on SEARCH. • Dedicated personnel for transceiver search. • Probing conducted at 90 º to the snow surface (shortest distance) Digging: most effective method • Leave the probe standing upon finding (marks find, depth and digging direction) • Dig a V-shaped horizontal hole towards the probe. • Avoid standing on the snow surface above the victim. Treatment of patient/evacuation (see next page for details) Look for air pockets. Do not move the victim’s limbs unnecessarily. CPR conducted as soon as head and chest are freed. Prepare evacuation means prior to removal of the patients from the snow. Avoid further heat loss from the patient Evacuation can be conducted by pulk, stretcher or improvised sledge.

• • • •

Heat conductors Objects that stick up ie. ice, stones and stumps. Fall in temperature Wind Regulated water and rivers.


River ice • Always considered to be unsafe. • Water movement, current and whirl pools prevents the ice from forming and reduces the ice thickness. • The speed of the current increases in narrow areas, by straights, around headlands and outer river banks. Wet marshy areas, warm springs and open streams always have unsafe ice conditions/minimum groundfrost and are often open during mid winter. These conditions will be compounded by mild autumns with no/little groundfrost prior to snow covered ground.



If the avalanche victim cannot breathe • Clear airway • Gain access to the chest region as soon as possible. • Start CPR immediately. • 30 compressions - 2 mouth to mouth resuscitations (start with mouth to mouth) • Continue until medical personnel can takeover. If the victim can breathe unassisted • Clear airway • Continue careful digging. • Stabilize in the coma position. • Protect against further heat loss. Extraction of patient • Gentle, horizontal extraction from snow. • Do not move the victim’s limbs unnecessarily. Protect against further heat loss • Cover the patient whilst digging out (tent sheet etc) • Remove wet clothing • Wrap the patient in dry clothes, sleeping bag etc. • Prepare evacuation means prior to removal of the patient from the snow. Evacuation (see front page) • Prepare stretcher/sledge etc. • Closely monitor the patient during evacuation.

During winter conditions



Centre of Excellence for Cold Weather Operations (COE-CWO) product produced by the Norwegian School of Winter Warfare mail adr





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The purpose of this folder is to provide an aid memoir to leaders on the important issues that are required to make the correct and safe decisions when conducting manoeuvre training during winter conditions.

Movement in zone 1 is not allowed. Movement in zone 2 is allowed but only far out in the run out zone. Long stop or bivouacking is not allowed.

Movement in zone 1 is not allowed. Movement in zone 2 is allowed but bivouacking or long stops should be done further out than half of zone 2.

Pre-march preparations
1) Obtain information about the following: a) Terrain – open and regulated waters, rivers etc. b) Weather conditions: i) Wind – Snow will gather on the leeside of features. For example, when the prevailing wind direction is from the South snow will gather on North facing slopes. ii) Temperature – rising temperatures cause unstable snow conditions. iii) Precipitation: 20-30 cm or more per 24 hr period will cause an increased avalanche hazard, especially on lee slopes c) Recent avalanche signs in an area must be considered a serious avalanche hazard. d) Avalanche hazard warning 1-5 (see Norwegian AF Avalanche Hazard Scale). e) Personal assessment: choose a safe march route, rule out unsafe areas. Conduct your map study and route plan. a) Direction, distance and height differential. b) Land marks (Power lines, lakes, rivers etc.) c) Assessment of the avalanche hazard (1-5) along your intended route. i) Release zones: 30˚ or steeper ii) Run out-zone– extent of the avalanche. d) Assessment of open and regulated lakes/rivers.

Movement in zone 1 is not recommended, zone 2 considered to be safe.

Movement in zone 1 and 2 is not allowed.

On the map

3 X the fall height (3 x H). Estimate the height from the avalanche crown (highest possible release area) from the valley and multiply by 3. This gives a horizontal distance that is the run out zone that the avalanche can move from the crown. This is equal to a 20˚ bearing angle.

Triggering is probable even through low additionale loads ** on many steep slopes. In certain conditions, many medium and multiple large natural avalanches are expected.

Triggering is possible, even through low additional loads**. In certain conditions, some medium and occasionally large natural avalanches are possible.

Triggering is possible, particularly through high additional loads**. Large natural avalanches are not expected.

20o 3xH


The snowpack is only moderately well bonded on some steep slopes*, otherwise it is generally well bonded.

The snowpack is moderately to weakly bonded on many steep slopes*.

The snowpack is generally well bounded and stable.

On arrival at Start location


Pendulum method (Hit by the pole below is steeper than 30 degrees, above is under 30 deg)

Pole method

The 4 factors assessment: terrain, weather, snow pack (Snow conditions) and humans. Information and assessments of the terrain, weather and snow conditions must be verified. If necessary adjust the planned route as appropriate. The fourth factor – humans – they can be influenced to interpret the other 3 factors depending on their level of experience and the need/ importance of the mission or task.

3 Considerable

Degree of hazard

2 Moderate

It is important to practise assessing the steepness of the terrain and concurrently control measures. This will give good assessment skills in attaining the steepness of terrain. These skills will increase the chances of avoiding terrain with slopes of 30˚ or more.

5 Very high

4 High

1 Low

Avalanche map • What the avalanche map does and does not illustrate. • The avalanche map is based on contour lines and emphasises the avalanche release zone (30 % or steeper) with associated run out zones. • The maps depict an average illustration of the terrain, snow that has been compressed into snow banks can create areas that are steeper than 30 º is not marked on the maps. Avalanche maps do not display avalanche frequency or accumulation of snow.

The snowpack is weakly bounded on most steep slopes*.

The snowpack is generally weakly bounded and largely unstable.

Snowpack stability

Route planning (DDTIT) Prior to conducting the march, the route must be planned. A planning tool that can be used is the mnemonic DDTIT. D – Distance and difference of height between two points on the march. D – Direction, compass bearing between the two points T – Terrain. Description of the terrain. I – Interceptions. For example, roads, rivers and power lines etc. T – Time. The time calculation for the planned march.

Norwegian Armed Forces Avalanche Hazard Scale - English




Avalanche probability


* Terrain steepness: Extreme slopes > 40 o, Steep slopes 30-40 o; Moderately steep terrain 40 o ** Additional weight: High additional load = group of skiers, skidoo; Small additional load = One skier

Measure the steepness The steepness of the terrain can be measured by the use of simple methods. Maps When the distance between the contours is less than 0.7mm on a 1:50,000 map the average slope angle is 30˚ or steeper. In the terrain Pole method (see figure). Pendulum method (see figure) Slope angle instrument either separate or integrated within the compass.

Many large natural avalanches are Expected, even in moderately steep terrain*.

Snow pack, avalanche hazard signs • Collapsing layers may lead to remote triggered avalanches from flat terrain. • Cracks in the snow - Fracture in the packed snow when marching. • Avalanches that have recently occurred. • Small formations/ cornices that slide out naturally. • Wind transported snow dunes (banks). • Snow slabs that glide easily on small slopes – is a sign of burried slippery layers. • Cold periods over more than 2 to 3 weeks on this snow cover – this build up buried weak layers. • Ice or snow crust layers within the snowpack will create weakness.

Triggering is generally possible only with high additional loads** on very few extreme slopes. Only natural sluffs and small avalanches are possible.

Is it avalanche terrain? 90 % of the avalanches involving humans have been triggered by their own actions. • In areas where the terrain is of 30 º or steeper with snow cover, Norwegian military safety regulations state it is forbidden for military units to operate in these areas.

In the terrain The 20˚- rule. The bearing must be taken from a point in the terrain to the avalanche crown. An angle of 20˚ or less indicates that you are at the maximum range of a run out zone.

Movement in zone 1 and 2 is not allowed. Avalanches may have longer run outs than marked on the avalanche map.

Military regulations

Terrain factors Release zones Avalanches are most likely to occur in most cases in features that have a slope of between 30˚- 60˚. Follow ridges Ridges are often free of snow due to wind and not as steep as the slopes on either side. Ravines Do not exploit ravines that are snow covered and are higher than 5 meters. Cornices Be aware of cornices in ravines that may fracture.

Run out zone An assessment of the run out zone can be done on a map or the terrain. It is safe to move outside of the run out zone.

Weather conditions that increase avalanche hazard • 20mm precipitation = 20 cm snow over the previous 24 hrs or 30 cm over the previous 72 hrs. • More than 10 mm rain will loosen the snow and increase the avalanche hazard. • Wind; more than 5 m/s – snow drift starts. When wind strength is doubled the amount of snow on the leeside is increased by 3rd power (2 3). This means that a 10 cm build up of snow per hr at 5 m/s – gives at 10 m/s; 10 cm x 8 = 80 cm of snow per hr. • When the wind is stronger than 12m/s expect, as a rule of thumb, the avalanche hazard to be 3 (considerable). • When the temperature rises the avalanche hazard increases. This is particularly prevalent when the temperature rises from -3 degrees to 0~ +1.

a Terr in