(What to do before, during and after)
Avalanche is snow masses that move suddenly and flow from the top to the bottom because of the force of gravity and with the increase of the speed and mass of snow, it gradually becomes turbulent and unrest. Avalanche is considered a serious threat for the buildings located in mountainous hinterland, skiers, climbers and villagers. It greatly damages buildings and blocks the roads. Avalanche recognition, ways of prevention, dealing with it and escaping from it is very necessary especially for the people who live in mountain areas.
Avalanche release is caused by vibration (earthquake waves) or the noise of cars, airplanes and helicopters. It has enough power to destroy non-resistant buildings.
In the avalanche-prone areas, forestry work is done in the initial place of snow movement to prevent its danger. To reduce the intensity of small avalanches, with the explosion or bombardment with artillery, we can artificially cause their downfall. pre-notification, of course, should be made to residents to evacuate the areas prone to loss. In general, management practices in these areas include improvement of natural vegetation, protection of species and cultivation of new varieties, building structures, changing the amount and structure of snow and ice, education and public participation, sending warning messages in urgent time and making investments for later exploitation. All these, of course, need various scientific and technical specializations.
Factors increasing the risk of avalanche release
- The main factor contributing to the release of an avalanche is the slope. On the steep slopes (50 degrees or more), avalanche danger is not usually high because the snow is naturally pouring down before being accumulated. On the gentle slopes (less than 25 degree) also the avalanche danger is not usually high. Based on the research, most avalanches mainly have occurred on slopes of 35-40 degrees. With a steep slope, the stability of the top layer of snow reduces and avalanche danger increases.
- Natural soil cover is important to prevent avalanche release. Smooth and undulating lands are avalanche prone. Uniformity of slope is also a high risk factor.
- Strong winds are the most important factors of falling avalanche, especially if they have strongly blown for several days.
- Avalanche after the snow depends on the amount of snowfall, its weight and finally the mountain slope. Over time, the probability of survival of the person buried under 1 meter of snow decreases rapidly.
- To deal with avalanche, be careful, and upon hearing the slightest sound which is indicative of the release of an avalanche, leave the area.
- In an area that there has been even one avalanche danger, there is all likelihood that they fall again. Remember you have 30 minute to save the person buried under snow. So don’t miss time. After 30 minutes of being buried under the snow, one can hope that only 50% of victims survive.
Factors inhibiting avalanche release
- Trees and shrubs (are the most common factors preventing avalanche. Bushes are not protection against avalanches).
- Low slopes and open valleys.
Measures to avoid avalanche danger
- Refrain from traveling on avalanche-prone roads.
- Keep silent when crossing the mountainous areas. Blowing the horn or increasing the sound of the car’s sound system can cause avalanche release.
- Before climbing the mountain, you should have a plan. Furthermore, an experienced supervisor, the direction and climbing area and the capacity of people should have already been identified.
- Tell the others about your climbing program.
- Means of communication must be available (wireless, mobile and a PIEPS -a small electronic transceiver- etc.). People traveling in an avalanche-prone area must, by pressing a button, put the device in transmitter’s state and the others in receiver’s state. Don’t forget this equipment shouldn’t be placed in the backpack but it should be hung around your neck.
- To climb, practice and work in mountainous and snow areas, you must have climbing tools and equipment including technical accessories, clothes, food, aid tools etc.
- If not possible to bypass a slope, try to reach high elevations in order not to be in a long path of avalanche.
- Be quiet when passing because sound vibration may cause avalanches to fall. Vibration is one main cause of avalanche. So avoid shouting in these areas. In fact silence makes you more aware of avalanche to act in time.
- It’s better for team members to travel with a 20-30 meters distance on the perilous slopes. So they are not all caught in avalanche and can save each other.
- On a snowy slope, walk very softly in order not to hit and push the snow along the route. Otherwise you may shatter the snow and consequently avalanche flow will occur.
- Use twine or special rope for climbing.
- On the snow, don’t go on the left or right, walk just in a straight line.
- The best way of passing through avalanche is on an upward way not in a transverse manner.
- Close avalanche yarn (avalanche yarn is a 3 mm rope which is red and has a length of 15 -50 meter .There is a one direction arrow on its shell. It must be connected to the body in a way that the arrow is directed to the individual and the remaining part is pulled on the ground. Now if the avalanche falls, the aid group, after finding the yarn, can follow the arrow’s direction to reach the injured person.
- To pass from avalanche, the person cannot be supported by a rope or other devices because avalanche may smash the person into pieces.
- While passing through avalanche, move one by one, without hurry and with a great distance from the place. The next person should not immerse foot or baton between foot intervals on the snow.
- Put your backpack toward the slope and put just one of its straps on your shoulder. So at the time of danger, you can throw it away easily.
- If the footstep of previous person is deep, you can use the snow of the same place to fill it.
- As far as possible, pass from the top of the avalanche range (near the tip), so the less amount of snow is overhead.
- Leave the place as soon as you hear the slightest sound which indicates falling of avalanche.
Measures during avalanche release
- Take away all equipment especially sharp objects.
- Escape to a safe place. Bring yourself on avalanche by swimming and escape upward, left and right.
- Move toward the barriers (stones, shrubs. etc.).
- Before you dive under the snow, if it is possible, throw something up in order for seekers to find you.
- If you mired in avalanche, with the help of your hands, place an envelope or a plastic back in front of your face. Since more deaths are due to suffocation caused by avalanche, creating space for air and breath is the best thing you can do.
- By any means, cover your mouth and your face.
- Keep your breath in your chest because it prevents snow particles from entering the lungs and freezing.
- Keep your cool in order for your body to be able to keep your energy and so you can better decide to save yourself.
- Follow the path in which a person goes through avalanche with eyes looking up until the end of it.
Measures after avalanche release
- Remember the less you go into the snow, the more chances you have to stay alive.
- Like when you are swimming in the water, swim in avalanche in order to reach up to the surface.
- Finding avalanche yarn, his/her equipment, exploring the lower regions of the start of avalanche or starting location of the person all will help to find a missing person.
- Since everywhere under the snow is dark and it may not be possible recognizing the upward direction of snow avalanche, if possible by spitting out find the direction. The opposite direction of spittle is upward.