What is avalanche?
Avalanche is a mass of snow and ice that slides rapidly down an inclined slope, posing a threat to anyone on snowy mountainsides. Beautiful to watch from afar, they can be deadly because of their intensity and seeming unpredictability.
There is a trifecta effect that causes avalanches: terrain, snowpack, and weather conditions.
Avalanches do occur naturally, but when you add humans into the mix, they can be deadly.
Disastrous avalanches occur when massive slabs of snow break loose from a mountainside. The mass of snow shatters like broken glass as it races downhill and can run 160 kilometers per hour.
How to protect yourself from avalanche?
1. If you are going to the avalanche-prone area, be sure to know the risk and what to do in case of avalanche happens.
2. Get some professional training on how to recognize hazardous conditions and avalanche-prone locations in the area, first aid training so you can recognize and treat suffocation, hypothermia, traumatic injury, and shock, and learn how to use safety and rescue equipment
3. Get the proper equipment to protect yourself from head injuries and create air pockets.
4. Use the DORRISS mobile App and sign for local alerts with local authorities
5. Travel with a guide who knows which locations to avoid. Always travel in pairs.
6. Follow avalanche warnings on roads. Roads may be closed, or vehicles may be advised not to stop on the roadside.
7. Know the signs of increased danger, including recent avalanches and shooting cracks across slopes.
8. Use an avalanche airbag that may help you from being completely buried.
9. Carry a collapsible avalanche probe and a small shovel to help rescue others.
How to survive an avalanche?
1. Move to the Side
Once you see an avalanche heading your way, do not try to outrun it. Avalanche is faster than you are! Run immediately perpendicular to the avalanche path to avoid getting caught up in the middle of it. In the event that the avalanche begins beneath your feet (which can happen when skiing or snowboarding), act quickly and try to jump upslope, above the fracture line.
2. Grab something solid
Grab onto a tree branch or sturdy rock to keep you steady and rooted to one spot and avoid being swept away by an avalanche. Boulders and trees won't help you much in a major avalanche, but they can hold out against less powerful cascades.
3. Stay on the surface
If you start moving downward with the avalanche, stay on the surface using a swimming motion to prevent getting buried under mounds of snow and debris. If you are struggling to stay afloat, "violently thrashing around so you don't sink" is a good alternative survival tactic.
4. Hold Arm Up
Take your hands and cup them over your mouth while you're still moving. This will "create a small pocket of air for you to survive on for up to 30 minutes." You can also dig out some space around your face to get extra breathing room when the avalanche is over. Push the other arm towards the surface so if you do get buried, the rescue team can find you easier.
5. Stay Calm
Try to dig yourself out, if possible. Relax your breathing, particularly if you cannot dig yourself out. If you panic, your breath will quicken and you'll fill what little space you have with too much carbon dioxide, shortening that 30-minute survival window. Try to breathe as steadily as you can so the rescue team has as much time as possible to come find you. Save energy shouting only when rescue is near and you hear them.