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Avalanche Transceivers Basics
Technical note

OverloadIf you are buried by an avalanche, wearing a transceiver can help people find you. However, it will not prevent you from being buried, it will not prevent you from being killed by trauma, and it will not prevent you from suffocating while buried. (Of course, if you are killed by an avalanche, a beacon will make it easier for rescuers to recover your body.)

Avalanche transceivers (a.k.a. "beacons") can either transmit or receive a signal (hence the name
trans-ceiver). In normal operation, your transceiver is set to transmit a signal. If somebody gets buried by an avalanche, other people search for the buried victim by switching their transceivers to receive mode. Note that everyone who was not buried by the avalanche must switch to receive mode or the searchers will inadvertently search for somebody on the surface.

Steve and Teammates
Transport an Avalanche Fatality

Digital transceivers display a distance indicator which estimates the distance to the victim in meters. Digital transceivers with multiple antennas also display a directional indicator that points to the transmitting beacon (transceivers with one antenna cannot display a directional indicator).

The basic search technique is to travel a zigzag-like pattern on the surface of the snow until a signal is received (the signal search) and to then follow the directional indicator toward the victim (the coarse search), and finally use the distance indicator to locate the victim (the fine search). A transceiver's range determines the appropriate search strip width for the zigzagging (typically 30 to 50 meters).

When you are within a few feet of the victim, you use an avalanche probe to locate the victim. When you locate the victim with your probe, you use a shovel to unbury them.

Special techniques are required to locate multiple victims. The technique you use depends on your training and the type of transceiver you own. Locating multiple victims is relatively complicated. It is preferable to use safe travel techniques to limit the number of people who are exposed to the avalanche hazard.

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