The Avalanche Review, VOL. 12, NO. 3, JANUARY 1994
Copyright © All Rights Reserved; AAA

RECCO COMING TO U.S. SKI AREAS

by Liam Fitzgerald

The RECCO avalanche victim locating system which is in widespread use in Europe is about to be re-introduced in this country. The RECCO was developed in Sweden by Magnus Granhed who after losing a friend in an avalanche decided to work at developing a system that would provide a better way of finding the buried victim. This system operates on the principal of reflecting and amplifying a micro-wave signal. [ As described in the previous article. ] The receiver is directional. That is, unlike non-directional systems (personal safety devices i.e., Skadi, Ortovox, etc.) the signal gets louder when the transceiver is pointed towards the diode, thus making finding the buried victim somewhat easier. This system has the desireable feature of requiring no skill or knowledge on the part of the potential victim, all they have to do is wear the reflectors. The skill is the rescuers responsibility, and after a rather brief training period (in comparison with other detection methods) one can become quite proficient in locating a buried diode.

The diodes provide the most effective reflection of the signal when worn on the outside of the body in pairs, one diode on opposite sides of the body (such as the outside of the arm near the shoulder, or the top-outside of the ski boot). This is where one would attach diodes purchased in individual sets and also where several skiclothing and boot manufactures are building the diodes into their products. Ideally if at some time in the future all the customers at your ski area were wearing diodes, the RECCO transceiver would be dispatched with the first responders to any avalanche where the public might be involved. The rescuers would then have another tool at their disposal which would offer a good chance of locating any buried victims fairly quickly. The RECCO system is not meant to replace personal safety devices that avalanche workers wear while conducting their work nor is it meant to replace the trained avalanche dog, it is another tool to be used in conjunction with these other methods in ski area rescues. Back country use of the RECCO has many of the same drawbacks as any method requiring notification and response from the organized rescue operation often some distance away where the RECCO would be located. The RECCO, however, can be effectively operated from a helicopter which in the case of a very large area to be searched or in the case of the risk to rescuers from secondary avalanches, can greatly increase the efficiency of the rescue. At least one live recovery in Europe has been made using the RECCO in this manor. Other possible uses of the RECCO would include locating vehicles buried by avalanches where the signal is reflected by the car stereo or other on-board electronics and the as yet to be tested method of locating dud avalauncher rounds by building the diode inside or securing one to the outside of the tailfin assembly.

With many thousands of diodes presently being built into new parkas and ski boots and hopefully more in the future the RECCO is becoming a tool that more and more organized rescue teams will be incorporating into their programs.

In response to the increased distribution of diodes in this country, the manufacturer is placing transceivers at six U.S. ski areas this winter. Those areas scheduled to receive the units are Alpine Meadows, Mammoth, Snowbird, Alta, Snowmass, and Vail-Beaver Creek. For more information contact the ski patrol at one of these resorts, or contact: RECCO AB, Box 4028, S18104 Lidingo, Sweden Fax No. 46-8-73105 60

The Avalanche Review, VOL. 12, NO. 3, JANUARY 1994
Copyright © All Rights Reserved; AAA