Advice on Shovelling
Shovelling can be the most tiring stage in an avalanche rescue and can also take the most time. The survival rate for a victim rescued within 15 minutes is 92% so it is important that you know exactly what to do when it comes to shovelling so you don’t waste anytime. Read on to get the top tips for shovelling a victim out of an avalanche.
You need to excavate immediately downhill from the probe strike. In a burial deeper than one metre, start digging 1.5 times the burial depth. You dig down hill because there is less snow to move and you avoid compacting the snow over the victim’s limited air pocket.
Avalanche debris is firm, so it is a good technique to chop the snow into blocks and then scoop. Using the paddling technique instead of lifting each scoop. Aluminium shovels are better than plastic for real avalanches. Oval shafts offer the most strength with the least weight.
When you have located the victim of an avalanche, leave your probe in place to mark the victim. The probe length will help you determine the hole size you need to dig. Start moving the snow out the sides of your hole and if it reaches waist height, then push it further downhill. You first priority is to uncover the victim’s face first followed by their whole head and chest. You need to relieve their airways first.
If you have more companions then two of you should start shovelling just downhill from the probe following the guidelines above.
If a burial is deeper than two metres, it may be difficult to move snow clear of the hole. If there are more companions available, two others should shovel down from the initial diggers and clear the snow as far as possible. Other shovelers should prepare the slope for first aid and evacuation.