If you find yourself in an avalanche or in an area where one might occur, it’s important to act quickly and decisively to maximize your chances of survival. Here are important steps to consider in the event of an avalanche:
- Stay as calm as possible: It’s natural to feel fear and panic in such a situation, but it’s crucial to try to stay as calm as you can. Clear thinking and swift actions can make a critical difference in the outcome.
- Try to move to the side: If you see an avalanche coming, try to move to the side if there is a clear and safe path. Moving to the side can reduce the chances of being caught in the full force of the avalanche.
- Attempt to get out of the way: If you can’t move to the side, try to grab onto a tree or rock, or position yourself so that when the avalanche comes, it may pass you by. Any effort to avoid being caught in the main flow of the avalanche is beneficial.
- Create space: If you are caught in the avalanche, try to create an air pocket around your face by putting one arm above your head, and if possible, cover your mouth to avoid inhaling snow and suffocating. This air pocket will provide you with a pocket of air, which increases your chances of survival.
- Swim to stay on top: If you are caught in the avalanche and you feel yourself being carried, try to “swim” or move your arms in a breaststroke-like motion to stay on top of the moving debris. Keeping yourself on top of the snow increases your chances of not being buried deeply.
- Fight to stay on the surface: As the avalanche settles, do your best to stay on top of the snow. If you get buried, it can be exceedingly difficult to dig yourself out, so the goal is to avoid being buried in the first place.
- Try to create an air pocket if buried: If you find yourself buried in the snow, try to create an air pocket around your face by cupping your hands in front of your mouth as the snow comes to a stop. This pocket of air will be critical for breathing while waiting to be rescued.
- Make noise and try to signal for help: If you’re buried, try to make noise by yelling, whistling, or using an object (like a whistle if you have one) to attract attention. If you’re with others, they should act quickly to search for and rescue buried individuals using avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels.
- Trust your rescue equipment: If you have an avalanche transceiver and an airbag, trust the equipment and use it to increase your chances of being located and potentially staying closer to the surface of the snow.
Remember that prevention is key when venturing into avalanche-prone areas. It’s essential to have the proper knowledge of avalanche safety, including checking daily avalanche forecasts, using appropriate safety gear (e.g., avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe), and undergoing training in avalanche awareness and rescue techniques.
Always prioritize safety, and seek professional training and guidance before engaging in activities in avalanche terrain. If you ever have doubts regarding the safety of a particular area in regards to avalanches, it’s best to exercise caution and avoid the area altogether.