Avalanche transceivers, radio systems keep rescuers in contact - SNEWS

Avalanche transceivers, radio systems keep rescuers in contact

In Every backcountry emergency situation, whether it’s an avalanche or injury, good communication is vital to safety. If information isn’t clearly being exchanged, it can lead to delays, confusion and ultimately fatalities.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

In Every backcountry emergency situation, whether it’s an avalanche or injury, good communication is vital to safety.

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If information isn’t clearly being exchanged, it can lead to delays, confusion and ultimately fatalities, said Bruce Edgerly, vice president of marketing and sales at Backcountry Access. To that end, BCA debuts the BC Link group communication system (MSRP $175, photo right) to keep skiers and riders in contact through a walkie-talkie-like device that’s been optimized, slimmed down and winterized for the outdoors. The microphone section clips to a pack’s shoulder strap, has glove-friendly controls, and wires to the base unit, which can be clipped to a belt or stashed in the back through a hydration sleeve. The system weights half a pound and runs on a rechargeable 3.7-volt battery.

Also along communications lines, brands are debuting new avalanche beacons at the show. Arva Snow Safety Equipment introduces its Neo Avalanche Transceiver (MSRP $330-$380, photo left), which looks to simplify controls and readings for the user with visual graphic icons on the display screen. It has three antennas, which Arva U.S. Brand and Sales Manager Jeremy Jolley said every new beacon should have. The antenna trio, each oriented in different directions, increase the chances the transmitting signal gets out no matter the position of someone buried in the snow. “Two-antenna systems should be a thing of the past,” Jolley said. Arva, based in France, is looking to make more inroads in the United States, recently opening a wholly owned North American distribution office in Boise, Idaho.

Ortovox upgrades its 3+ Avalanche Beacon (MSRP $369, photo below) for Winter Market, adding an internal Recco system and assuring retailers that it’s fixed firmware issues that plagued some European beacons, said spokesman Todd Walton. The issue concerned a nifty safety feature that switches a receiving beacon to transmit mode in case the searcher gets caught in a secondary avalanche. It’s designed to switch only after 120 seconds of no detected movement. The faulty units in Europe were automatically switching regardless, but the issue is being resolved through recalls and did not affect North American units, Walton said.

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The Ortovox 3+ also had three antennas, along with an internal gyroscope that determines what direction the buried victim is facing to automatically switch to the right antenna to send the best signal.

As with many other winter safety product manufacturers across the show floor, beacon makers said they’d be upping education efforts too.

“No matter what beacon you have, the important part is getting the education,” Walton said. “If you don’t know how to use it, it’s worthless. People need to practice, practice, practice.”

--David Clucas

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