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ICAR and its Importance in Avalanche Rescue

24 Nov 2004

Lawine Bild 017

ABSTRACT

The International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR, http://www.icar-cisa.org/) was founded 1948 by influential representatives of the alpine rescue organizations in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. From the beginning of the partnership, the aim was to coordinate materials, techniques, strategies and information for alpine rescue-actions.

At present, 33 organizations representing 22 countries (in Europe and Northern America) are associated in the ICAR. At the annual meetings, four sub-commissions deal with the different tasks of alpine rescue. Beside climbing, glacier or cave accidents, snow avalanches are of eminent interest. Recommendations for safety measures in outdoor equipments are a strong tradition in the avalanche section of ICAR. We mention the harmonization of the frequency for avalanche beacons in 1989, which, after intense discussions, was fixed worldwide to 457 kHz after ICAR’s intervention. Also 1993, when the avalanche warning services coordinated the avalanche danger scale, ICAR played a dominant role in the harmonization.

Overall statistics for the last 20 years prove an annual mean of 106 avalanche fatalities in the alpine countries and 138 after adding those in Northern America. Most persons died in avalanches during ’Back- country’ touring, but important (and with a gentle positive trend) are also those caught during off-piste skiing/boarding or snowmobiling.

In analyzing the questionnaires of the rescue teams and the characteristics of the snow cover progress during winter, detailed information on avalanche accidents can be found and should stay a main focus.
Today, efforts are necessary to merge the practical work of the alpine rescuers, avalanche forecasters and educators. Special efforts are also necessary to reduce the risk of the rescuers themselves.

KEYWORDS: mountaineering accidents, mountain rescue, prevention, emergency systems, avalanche accident trends

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