Safeback System Aims to Revolutionize Avalanche and Tree Well Survival Rates by Providing Air When Buried

AvyBrains | | AvalancheAvalanche

avalanche, safeback system,
Credit: Safeback

Designed to extend the survival window under an avalanche from 15 minutes to 90 minutes

After five years of prototyping, development, considerable testing, patent and certification processes, Safeback is finally able to announce more details about its product.

The Safeback SBX system, when activated, will retrieve clean air from the snow through a filter in your backpack, and actively pump it up through the hose systems in your backpack straps. Clean air will diffuse through dense avalanche snow adding air with normal oxygen levels to the breathing area. As an added effect the carbon dioxide is diluted.

The field research and tests show that this unit can provide enough clean air to extend the expected survivable period of time buried under an avalanche from 15 minutes to 90 minutes.

Field testing and certification have been a very important part of the development process, and Safeback has been fortunate to be supported by the Norwegian Armed Forces with a development contract administrated by the Armed Forces Research Establishment. One of these tests involved live breathing tests under snow, and another with a mannequin and mechanized breathing system to simulate real O2 and CO2 levels. Additionally, the Mountain Medicine Research Group at the University of Bergen has performed independent studies related to the problem that Safeback’s product aims to solve.

“Our tests show that this system works. Snow is porous, so even in a large avalanche with dense snow conditions, the Safeback system can deliver fresh air to your nose and mouth so long as your mouth and nose are at are within 25 centimeters or 10 inches from the nearest outlet on one of your shoulders.”

– Tor Berge, CEO of Safeback

By integrating directly into backcountry airbags and freeride backpacks, they can ensure that the unit is protected from the forces during an avalanche and that the hoses stay securely in place near the user’s mouth and nose. Their system is the first to use electronics to actively provide clean air to the buried person. Much like electrical airbags, the SBX is fan-based and battery-powered in order to be reliably and repeatedly used. The system uses replaceable, non-chargeable batteries due to their higher reliability in the cold. With batteries, the whole system weighs roughly 450 grams.

The Safeback SBX is activated by pulling firmly on the T-shaped handle on your backpack – very similar to those used in airbag systems. This means that the user will not need to have any equipment in their mouth while they are navigating in steep terrain and can activate their device if they are in immediate threat of being caught by an avalanche. In cases where backpacks have both airbags and an SBX, the activation wires for both can be integrated into a single activation handle.

They are planning to launch in the winter season of 2023-24, pre-integrated into packs from 3-4 backcountry pack producers. Their goal is to maximize the number of lives saved with the SBX system, so are not offering any single producer exclusivity over their product

Safeback was founded in 2016 by three engineers and backcountry enthusiasts in Western Norway – Tor Berge, André Mjølhus, and Sigmund Andreassen. After analyzing the avalanche safety equipment available today, they realized that there was a lack of innovation and investment in solutions for the avalanche victim under the snow. They then set out to create user-focused products that reliably get backcountry travelers home safe.

Safeback’s research and development have targeted the problem of asphyxia under the snow. Their initial product, Safeback SBX, is a breathing assistance system that actively provides clean air to the victim’s air pocket in the snow, extending the survival window for up to 90 minutes.

avalanche, safeback system,
Credit: Safeback

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