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What to do if you are overwhelmed by an avalanche

The survival curve does not lie: when you are overwhelmed by an avalanche, if you are rescued within the first 18 minutes you have a 90% chance of surviving; over this time the percentage drops drastically up to 25% after 45 '. All this considering the best possible conditions, that is to be dressed appropriately, know what to do and find snow of such consistency that you can breathe at least a little. But what to do if you are overwhelmed by an avalanche? And how to avoid being overwhelmed?

How to avoid being overwhelmed by an avalanche

The only really safe way to survive an avalanche is to avoid avalanches. But since this is not possible in the mountains, because the risk of avalanches is always present, the first thing to do to avoid being overwhelmed by an avalanche is to prevent risks. That is: before going in fresh snow and off-piste with any equipment - skis, snowshoes, snowboards or even on foot - consult the snow reports and information about the avalanche danger, for example on the website www.aineva.it. Attention: although the bulletins are accurate and reliable, there is no one who knows the snow of their mountains as those who live there, after consulting the avalanche bulletin, it is very recommended to contact local mountain guides and possibly be guided .

All this does not categorically rule out the risk of being overwhelmed by an avalanche, however it can significantly reduce the risks due to reckless, unconscious or inexperienced behavior. But even if all this is blazing an avalanche with the risk of being overwhelmed, what can be done to try to survive?

What to do if you are overwhelmed by an avalanche

There are some behaviors that can undoubtedly lower the chances of death even if you end up swept away by an avalanche.

Run diagonally from the slope
The avalanche will always be faster than a person can travel along a slope, even on skis. So do not aim downstream but move diagonally trying, as far as possible, to get off the front of the avalanche.

Get rid of the equipment
Via skis, poles, sticks, snowshoes and anything that can prevent movement or cause fractures.

Try floating
Needless to try to resist the force of the avalanche, you must instead try to float above the mass of snow as if you were swimming in water. For this, for example, airbag backpacks: not so much to repair from blows when to increase the ability to float on the snow.

Or close to egg
If you can not float then you have to fry an egg, to protect internal organs and limbs from the violence of the mass of snow and to protect the face and especially the respiratory tract that, if they inhale snow, would cause death by suffocation.

Create an air bubble
From this depend a good part of the chances of survival: even before hypothermia are hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or hypercapnia (excess of carbon dioxide) to be lethal. So the first thing to do is to create an air bubble around you to breathe.

To spit
Inside the mass of snow, after being overwhelmed, it is almost impossible to know where you are. But if you spit out the gravity will tell where the high is and where the bass is. According to the statistics 45% of the overwhelmed ones are freed independently, 28% is found by someone thanks to sight and hearing, the remaining 27% is rescued by other methods such as the ARVA signal or the intervention of the antivalanga dogs that should never miss in the endowment of those who go on the snow outside the marked tracks.
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If you have already been overwhelmed:

Let go of the sticks immediately, pull the handle of the "Airbag" yes it is not already fairy, and unhook the attacks of the skis or the board (to avoid "the effect again").

Try to stay on the surface trying to make sure that the snow passes under the body is possible only in case of small flows of snow, but for those involved it is difficult to estimate the volume of the snow mass that is overwhelming it: so it's better, immediately, keep your mouth closed, protect your head with your arms holding them firmly in front of your face. This precaution could perhaps help to create a pocket of air necessary for survival in front of the nose ...

If you witness the accident:
Observe carefully and identify the point where the buried person disappears from view and the avalanche flows.
Determine the primary research band according to the point where the victim has disappeared and the shape of the ground - bumps, dips, gully.

Emergency plan:
The emergency plan includes the elementary measures to be taken to ensure that the rescue of the victim by his companions is successful:

Get an overview of the situation;
Evaluate immediately the residual risks (a possible second avalanche);
Give the alarm directly from the accident site using a telephone or radio;
Protect all those present who do not participate directly in the rescue operations;
Turn off all the Artva not used for the search (in OFF position or "SEND Seccorso"). (see Faq);
At least one of the rescuers must immediately observe, listen and use his Artva;
Remove the buried person from the snow and give first aid;
If it was not possible to sound the alarm first, move physically to the nearest shelter or valley.

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