New Zealand Mountan Safety Council

Online Course - Rescue

You only have minutes to live if you are buried in an avalanche. If you are wearing a Transceiver you have a significantly higher chance of being found quickly, but only if the people with you know what to do.

When someone has been buried in an avalanche, time is critical. Modern digital transceivers perform very well at locating the victim’s signal and it is through proficient and organised digging that precious minutes can be saved. Once the victim has been uncovered, good patient management skills will further increase the chances of survival.

If you are caught in an avalanche


  • Yell and wave to others in group
  • Attempt to get out of the flow.
  • Angle out to the side.
  • Roll onto your back with feet down hill, swim hard and fight to remain on the surface.
  • Insert Avalung and/or deploy airbags.
  • Discard equipment.
  • As the debris starts to slow, attempt to create an air pocket in front of your face.
  • Remain calm and breath evenly.


If your party is involved in an avalanche


  • Stop, Think, Plan
  • Appoint a leader to take charge of the rescue -Try calling for help with cell phones/radios but keep everyone on site – DO NOT send them to get help. Time is critical and 100% effort from everybody is required for at least the first 20 minutes.
  • Assess the site for further avalanche danger - If there is a minimal risk of further avalanches then proceed with the search but limit the number of people exposed to the risk, have escape routes and a lookout (if possible). If the risk is too great, abandon the search and send for help.
  • Assess who is missing - Talk to any witnesses and establish the last seen area. From this you can define the search area in the fall line below this point. The search area can be narrowed further by the presence of clues on the surface, such as lost gear, or terrain traps.
  • Start the transceiver search - All searchers should turn their sets to receive and ensure that everybody has done so. However, everyone must be ready to turn their sets back to transmit in case of a second avalanche.

Survival of buried people depends on YOU. You may have less than 15 minutes to find and dig out the buried people.

Take this Avalanche Rescue Card with you into the Backcountry to help remind you of rescue strategies.



Avalanche Forecast Regions:
Mountain Safety Council managed websites
Mountainf Safety Council websiteAdventure Smart websiteNew Zealand Avalanche Center

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