Helicopter Device Saves Time for Buried Avalanche Victims

Helicopter Device Saves Time for Buried Avalanche Victims

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Richard Piatt Reporting Technology is making avalanche rescues faster in Europe, and now that same equipment is here in Utah.

Today, search and rescue crews from Utah ski resorts demonstrated a device that could save lives this winter.

Helicopter Device Saves Time for Buried Avalanche Victims

When you're buried in snow, seconds count. And this equipment is all about saving time. 'Helicopter-based long range receivers' hone in on avalanche beacon from above.

Helicopters are essential in avalanche rescues. But a search from the air is limited to what the eye can see. This antenna, a dangling long range receiver, goes deeper. It finds a buried avalanche beacon signal and narrows the search.

Dean Cardinale, Wasatch Backcountry Rescue: "From a rescue standpoint this is huge, and we're really excited about it."

Helicopter Device Saves Time for Buried Avalanche Victims

Inside the helicopter, the antenna is attached to a receiver. The faster the beeps, the closer the victim's transceiver.

Manuel Genswein, System Trainer: "The closer we get to the buried subject we reduce the sensitivity of the system, so smaller is the area we take into account."

Once the spot is narrowed down, a weighted flag is dropped. The ground searchers can then probe a specific area.

This training exercise located a transceiver much more quickly than a traditional search.

Pat Kramer, Alta Ski Patrol: "You saw they dropped the flag from the helicopter. That narrowed the search to about 10 yards. That's a lot better than what we normally start with."

In an avalanche, partner rescues are always faster. On November 14th, a friend saved a man buried by an avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's not always possible to have that kind of help.

In the case of a blind search, it could normally take hours. But now, technology increases the odds of a successful rescue in the backcountry.

There is still no substitute for being prepared--and trained. Even this new technology won't work, if someone's not wearing an avalanche beacon.

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