Shoveling/victim excavation- You’ve located the victim with your beacon and pinpointed them with your probe, now what? The ultimate goal is to excavate the victim as quickly as possible but there are some things to consider before literally digging in (burial depth, communication, slope angle etc.). Before digging take note of the probe depth. If the probe depth is 1 meter or deeper start excavating downhill at 1.5 times the probe depth. For example, if the depth is 1 meter (3 feet) deep, you would begin digging 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) down. This will allow you to dig into the hill and move less snow. This strategy could also potentially protect the victims air pocket or airway.
If there are multiple people within your rescue party someone needs to take charge and facilitate communication within the group. Based on the depth of the victim, the number of victims, and the size of the slide you will want to assign tasks to ensure the group is as productive as possible.
While shoveling make sure all parties are moving the snow to the sides of the burial area. This will reduce the likelihood of moving the same snow multiple times.
Once the victim is located, quickly clear the airway of the victim. If the victim is conscious, remain calm and reassure them that they will be ok. They will be under a high level of stress and you will need to do your best to attempt to calm them.
While beacon searching, probing and shoveling all sound like basic skills, it’s recommended enthusiasts’ take time to practice with their backcountry partners. This will ensure all parties are on the same page and will help to create a better routine.
Here is a BCA video showcasing the strategy for shoveling 1-5 people.
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