Comparison of avalanche survival patterns in Canada and Switzerland

Haegeli, Pascal; Falk, Markus; Brugger, Hermann; Etter, Hans-Jürg; Boyd, Jeff
April 2011
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;4/19/2011, Vol. 183 Issue 7, p789
Academic Journal
Background: Current recommendations for rescue and resuscitation of people buried in avalanches are based on Swiss avalanche survival data. We analyzed Canadian survival patterns and compared them with those from Switzerland. Methods: We extracted relevant data for survivors and nonsurvivors of complete avalanche burials from Oct. 1, 1980, to Sept. 30, 2005, from Canadian and Swiss databases. We calculated survival curves for Canada with and without trauma-related deaths as well as for different outdoor activities and snow climates. We compared these curves with the Swiss survival curve. Results: A total of 301 people in the Canadian database and 946 in the Swiss database met the inclusion criteria. The overall proportion of people who survived did not differ significantly between the two countries (46.2% [139/301] v. 46.9% [444/946]; p = 0.87). Significant differences were observed between the overall survival curves for the two countries (p = 0.001): compared with the Swiss curve, the Canadian curve showed a quicker drop at the early stages of burial and poorer survival associated with prolonged burial. The probability of survival fell quicker with trauma-related deaths and in denser snow climates. Poorer survival probabilities in the Canadian sample were offset by significantly quicker extrication (median duration of burial 18 minutes v. 35 minutes in the Swiss sample; p < 0.001). Interpretation: Observed differences in avalanche survival curves between the Canadian and Swiss samples were associated with the prevalence of trauma and differences in snow climate. Although avoidance of avalanches remains paramount for survival, the earlier onset of asphyxia, especially in maritime snow climates, emphasizes the importance of prompt extrication, ideally within 10 minutes. Protective devices against trauma and better clinical skills in organized rescue may further improve survival.


Related Articles

  • Case Study in Review: Discussion Q&A. Bezubiak, Ian; Weselake, Todd // Avalanche Review;Dec2008, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p13 

    The article presents a case study on the successful rescue of an avalanche victim after a large slab avalanche buried him in Fernie, British Columbia. It discusses the process of beacon searching and the beacon tracker used during the rescue. Also described are the shoveling technique...

  • HOW EFFICIENT IS COMPANION RESCUE WITH MINIMAL TRAINING? Genswein, Manuel; Eide, Ragnhild // Avalanche Review;Dec2008, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p14 

    The article examines the efficiency of companion rescue in multiple avalanche burial without training. A field test was conducted with 30 participants provided by the Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education and Outdoor Life Program of Volda University College in Norway to verify the claim that...

  • Survival Facts.  // Popular Mechanics;Aug2005, Vol. 182 Issue 8, p69 

    The article presents certain facts and statistics on search and rescue (SAR) operations in the U.S. 50, 000 is the estimated number of wilderness SAR missions in the U.S. each year. 36 percent is the portion of SAR operations launched to help people who have become lost. 40 percent if the...

  • Backcountry Skier Killed In Avalanche At Grand Teton National Park.  // National Parks Traveler;Mar2013, p3 

    The article offers information on the death of skier, Jarad Spackman, 40, of Jackson, due to an avalanche, while ascending Apocalypse Couloir near the mouth of Death Canyon. It states that Spackman and a companion were heading up the couloir about 10:30 a.m. to access an adjacent narrow and...

  • Grand Teton National Park Rangers Recover Body Of Skier Killed In Avalanche.  // National Parks Traveler;1/28/2013, p1 

    The article reports that rangers of Grand Teton National Park discovered body of Nick Gillespie from Jackson, Wyoming who was killed in an avalanche. It informs that Gillespie was caught in an avalanche on the southeast face of Survey Peak in the northern Teton Range and died as a result of...

  • A Brief Mathematical Note On MULTIPLE-BURIAL LIKELIHOOD. Shefftz, Jonathan S. // Avalanche Review;Dec2008, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p16 

    The article presents a brief mathematical note which focused on the likelihood of multiple-burial avalanche accident. The author explains the reasons for considering a multiple-burial likelihood. He mentions the potential confusion that can arise from the added complexity in the user interfaces...

  • WHEN SHOULD WE DIG? Jarry, Frédéric // Avalanche Review;Dec2008, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p16 

    The author analyzes the French data on multiple-burial avalanche situation and advances in avalanche beacon technologies. The author cites the data on 259 avalanche accidents recorded by the French National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (ANENA) between October 1999 and...

  • DIGGING DEEPER: Uncovering the Real Issues in North American Multiple Burials. Edgerly, Bruce // Avalanche Review;Dec2008, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p18 

    The article focuses on real experiences in multiple burial avalanche rescue operations in North America. The author discusses the importance of shovelling techniques in real multiple burial situations. According to the data from the www.avalanche.org database, from 1995 through April 2008, just...

  • Fight for food & seat in copter.  // Telegraph (Calcutta, India);4/30/2015, p11 

    The article reports on the fight for seats in rescue helicopters and for food by many trekkers from Israel who were stranded by an avalanche in Nepal after the February 2015 earthquake. Topics covered include death of more than 5000 people and 250 missing after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit a...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics