The Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research records more than 100 avalanche accidents every winter in Switzerland; and since minutes can decide on life and death in an emergency, Rega and its mission partners regularly train the search for avalanche victims. Recently, Rega and the mountain rescuers of the Swiss Alpine Club SAC and their avalanche dog handlers trained together on the Glacier 3000 above Les Diablerets (VD).
In the training scenario, a group of snowshoe hikers was hit by an avalanche and several people were buried. After being alerted, Rega command and the other control officers immediately deployed all the rescue services necessary for the avalanche rescue: Rega helicopters flying to the scene of the accident to locate and provide medical care for the victims and avalanche search teams, and mountain rescuers of the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, who are flown to the site by commercial helicopters with additional equipment.
For the exercise, the H145 from Rega’s base in Lausanne launched with the usual crew on board: a pilot, an ambulance and a paramedic. From the air, the Rega crew first carries out a large-scale, time-saving search on the avalanche cone using an avalanche transceiver or Recco detector, evaluating the optimum potential positions for dropping rescue workers; the team then informs the mission partners accordingly. Once on scene, the Rega crew makes room in the cabin for the trained avalanche dogs, the handlers and the SAC mountain rescuers, who are flown to the site of the avalanche. Through such practice flights, the avalanche dogs can get used to the sounds, the downwash of the helicopter and the getting in with the engines running, so they stay calm in an emergency.
Each year, Rega crews fly about 30 avalanche missions. In order to save as many people as efficiently as possible during avalanche rescue, the victim search equipment is always on board the Rega helicopter in winter.