How Well Do You Know How To Use Your Avalanche Beacon? | Part 2: Multiple Burials

Mike Bartholow | BackcountryBackcountry | AvalancheAvalanche

Brought to you by SCARPA Backcountry Week

This is the second installment of my highlighting Backcountry Access Avalanche Safety videos for SCARPA Backcountry Week. In Part 1, I talked about Beacon Searching 101 – one victim and one rescuer.  In Part 2, we will start looking at multiple burials.

As I said in my last post, there have been multiple deaths in North America recently, with the death toll still rising. In the past, it was considered relatively unusual for there to be multiple victims in recreational avalanche incidents. But two recent incidents in Utah and Colorado that killed three people or more in each case have highlighted the increased propensity for multiple-victim incidents. While I am reluctant to second guess what went on in any particular avalanche incident, it is clear to me that there are some disturbing trends this season. People are traveling in dangerous avalanche terrain during high hazard conditions in large groups.  Those large groups are encountering avalanche problems that require effective communication and challenging terrain management. Experienced backcountry travelers are getting it wrong, and they are dying because of it.

Large backcountry ski group | Credit: BCA Facebook

Avalanche rescue in a recreational setting is extremely challenging, and multiple-victim incidents present recreational users with often insurmountable challenges. As stated in the written introduction to the above video:

“They can become truly complex in cases when: A) it’s not possible to turn off the first victim’s transceiver, B), when the victims are in close proximity (10 m) to each other or C), when there are three or more victims.”

-Bruce Edgerley, BCA

While these videos are a few years old and are specific to the BCA transceivers used in them, they are a valuable introduction to multiple victim avalanche rescue in general. All modern avalanche rescue beacons have technology that allows for multiple victim search. All manufacturers have different ideas about how to go about it, but they all do it well. Practice with the beacon you have. The reality is, if you are involved in a multiple victim avalanche incident on a recreational ski tour, you’ve done something terribly wrong. Hopefully, you’ve learned to use your transceiver.

Backcountry Access’ Avalanche Safety videos can be found on their website

BCA Tracker 4 | Credit: BCA Facebook

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