Snowmobilers, skiers, ice-fishers and other winter enthusiasts take advantage of the snow and ice for their favourite cold-weather activities, but they also need to be aware of their safety while out in the snow, says Val Severin, search manager at the South Cariboo Search and Rescue. For those looking to learn more, the Search and Rescue team is having an Avalanche Awareness Day at the Search and Rescue building on Horse Lake Rd. from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on Jan. 21.
“With our prolonged winter season, we know there are all kinds of people out doing all kinds of winter recreation and we want to keep everyone safe,” says Severin.
The event will take people through the basics of winter safety. Avalanche safety will be covered, but attendees will also learn about ice safety and proper safety gear.
People with avalanche equipment can bring it to learn how to use it properly, while those who don’t know what they need can also come to learn and test different types of gear. Adults and children of all ages are welcome, says Severin. Children who come can learn to build a shelter and make a fire in the snow.
“Avalanche awareness is not just for yourself, but for your companions,” says Severin. “The people that you are riding with are the ones who are going to save your life. You want the ones who you are riding with to be good with their equipment and affect a rescue quickly. That can be the difference between life and death.”
The most important thing to know when it comes to avalanche safety is how to pick a route, says Severin. “You want to be aware of avalanche terrain and how to get through it safely.” She says the essential equipment for safety is a beacon or transmitter, a probe and a shovel.
If you do get caught in an avalanche Severin suggests you try to “swim” through it because it should keep you closer to the top. As the flow of the avalanche slows, she says to “take a hand and reach for the sky” because it might breach the surface and will make it easier for rescuers to find you. Still, “prevention is number one” when it comes to avoiding accidents in the wintertime, says Severin. She also recommends that people travelling with ATVs and heavier equipment on frozen surfaces be aware of air pockets and air holes. If you do fall through, she says, get your arms on the ice and let them freeze. That will keep your head above water until rescuers are able to reach you.
So far this year the South Cariboo has seen few Search and Rescue incidents, says Severin.
“This year has been very quiet thankfully. We’re happy to see that that reflects that the community is aware and educated and they are taking steps to keep themselves safe. That’s all we hope for. We hope everybody out there has a fun and a safe winter.”