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Reinventing rescue

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When caught in an avalanche, it all comes down to time. And while help someone should certainly call for help, the people closest to the scene are the best chance for a successful rescue.

Swiss avalanche rescue innovator Manuel Genswein has spent his life studying the subject, and his V-Shaped Snow Conveyor Belt is perhaps the most effective new development in snow removal in the history of avalanche rescue. Get ready to get to work.

Since backcountry travelers are often in groups, Genswein’s method assigns roles to rescuers.

1) Once contact has been made with the buried subject with the probe, a lead shoveler begins to dig on a horizontal plane one and a half times down slope from the probe strike.

2) Remaining shovelers spread out in a V shape behind the leader, on one side one shovel length apart, the other side two shovel lengths apart.

3) As the leader digs deeper toward the probe strike, the other shovelers remove snow in rapid paddling motions, hence the conveyor belt. Each shovel has an assigned section across the V shape.

4) Rescuers rotate every four minutes. Beyond four minutes and the lead shoveler begins to loose energy, slowing down the system.

5) Once the subject’s position is determined, two shovelers begin at the tip of the V, kneeling and carefully widening the V and excavating the patient while assessing their condition.

“Most of the progress we make is that the techniques – the strategies, the technologies – become more lifesaving,” Genswein said. “So the advantage to progress leads to more efficient rescue and thus higher chances of survival for the various subjects and the patients.”

Contact Brandon Mathis at bmathis@bcimedia.com or 970-375-4576

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