New Zealand Mountan Safety Council

Online Course - Rescue - Digging


Digging the person out

Digging is exhausting and the most time consuming part of the rescue, but an all-out effort and good technique can save precious minutes and lives.

  • Dig as quickly as possible.
  • Start digging about an arm and shovel length down-slope of the probe and dig toward the tip of the probe.
  • For groups with 3 or more diggers, organise the diggers into a V shape with everyone a wingspan apart and facing inward.
  • Chop snow into blocks, then scoop and slide it back to the other diggers to clear.
  • Rotate the diggers often. Be careful as you reach the victim.


Patient Care

Good patient management skills will greatly increase the chances of survival.

  • Gently clear their face and airway as fast as possible (note if they had a clear airway as medics will want to know this), then dig around their chest.
  • Assess patient – ABCs. Start artificial respiration (mouth-to-nose) if breathing has stopped.
  • A pulse may be difficult to detect due to cold, the position of the patient and their clothing. If circulation has stopped, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (30:2 pumps to breaths) and continue resuscitation until a medical professional takes over.
  • Ensure that the patient is completely clear of the debris before trying to move them and do so as slowly and gently as possible.
  • Treat any injuries/shock/hypothermia. Prevent further cooling.
  • Turn the person’s transceiver off as soon as you can if searching is underway for other buried people. Watch and take care of the victim very carefully.
  • Evacuate to medical facility.




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