Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A permenent home

Through generous support from the Resort municipality of Whistler, and the community we are proud to announce our new search and rescue headquarters adjacent the municipal works building. The new facility will allow the team to operate much more effectively during emergency responses reducing response time and improving co-ordination. The room will be fully equipped and functional by early spring 2008.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

PLB 406Mhz

>Feb 2008 update

Personal Locater 406 MHz Beacons

Whistler SAR now has the ability to pickup PLB distress signals
Whistler SAR would be intially notified by RCC in Victoria

Development of a new generation of beacons transmitting at 406 MHz commenced at the beginning of the Cospas-Sarsat project. The 406 MHz units were designed specifically for satellite detection and Doppler location, and provide the following:

  • improved location accuracy and ambiguity resolution;
  • increased system capacity (i.e. capability to process a greater number of beacons transmitting simultaneously in field of view of satellite);
  • global coverage; and
  • unique identification of each beacon.

System performance is greatly enhanced both by the improved frequency stability of the 406 MHz units and by operation at a dedicated frequency.

These beacons transmit a 5 Watt RF burst of approximately 0.5 seconds duration every 50 seconds. The carrier frequency is very stable and is phase-modulated with a digital message. Frequency stability ensures accurate location, while the high peak power increases the probability of detection. The low duty cycle provides a multiple-access capability for a large number of beacons simultaneously operating in view of a polar orbiting satellite, and low mean power consumption.

An important feature of 406 MHz emergency beacons is the digitally encoded message, which can provide information such as the country of beacon registration and the identification of the vessel or aircraft in distress, and optionally, position data from onboard navigation equipment.

An auxiliary transmitter (homing transmitter) is usually included in the 406 MHz beacon to enable suitably-equipped SAR forces to home on the distress beacon.

To ensure that 406 MHz beacons are compatible with the Cospas-Sarsat System, detailed specifications and type approval testing standards have been adopted.

The following information is available by clicking on the appropriate hyperlink:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Recco Detectors


RECCO® is an avalanche rescue system utilized by 600 organizations worldwide to assist in the efficient location of burials. First introduced in 1983, the technology was developed by Magnus Granhed with the cooperation of Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology in response to his personal experience with an avalanche tragedy. Since then, the system has proven itself effective in the field and has been adopted globally by ski resorts, helicopter skiing operations and search-and-rescue organizations as an additional tool for avalanche rescue.

Utilized universally throughout Europe, Japan and North America–from major destination resorts such as Whistler/Blackcomb, Whistler Search and Rescue Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley to Europe's marquee areas like Zermatt, Chamonix, and Verbier–the RECCO system has been widely adopted as an additional tool to aid the search. A preponderance of leading search-and-rescue operations are also equipped with the RECCO system, from Parks Canada, Mt. Rainer National Park and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue to Air Zermatt. In total, 600 of the most respected rescue organizations in the world have integrated the advanced location technology into their operations.

The RECCO system enables rapid directional pinpointing of a buried victim’s exact location using harmonic radar. The two-part system consists of a RECCO® detector used by organized rescue groups and RECCO® reflectors that are integrated into clothing, helmets, protection gear or boots.

The RECCO reflector is permanently affixed to skiers and snowboarders while they are recreating in the mountains. The small piece, essentially an electronic transponder with a copper aerial and a diode, weighs less than four grams. It is factory mounted to the exterior of gear that is unlikely to be torn off in the event of an avalanche. This ensures the reflector can't be left in the car, stashed mistakenly in the lodge or forgotten at home. It is a non-powered device, meaning that it never needs to be switched on, will never loose signal strength and needs no batteries to function. It requires no maintenance and has a virtually unlimited lifespan.

The success of the RECCO system hinges on operation of the RECCO detector. It is with this avalanche search tool that rescue organizations are able to locate individuals equipped with RECCO reflectors. In the hands of trained searchers, this portable device, which operates with a transmitter and receiver, enables efficient location of an avalanche burial. The detectors, which are positioned at strategic locations on the mountain, are operated by area ski patrols, helicopter skiing companies and search-and-rescue outfits. The latest generation of detector has evolved significantly and now weighs only 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds). At this reduced weight, it is extremely portable and can be easily operated in rough terrain or harsh conditions.

Although similar in search procedure to transceivers, the RECCO system is not intended for self-rescue and is not an alternative to transceiver use in the backcountry. Complementary in function, the system is an additional tool that does not interfere with other rescue methods such as avalanche dogs, transceiver searches or probe lines. Since it operates on the frequency-doubling principle, the system is entirely directional resulting in pinpoint accuracy and increased efficiency. The RECCO system facilitates a faster organized search for rescuers and provides skiers and snowboarders with one more chance to be found in time.

What rescue gear should I carry?

The essential rescue gear that everyone should carry when going into the backcountry is an avalanche beacon (or transceiver), shovel, and a collapsible or ski-pole probe. You and your friends should practice frequently so as to be proficient in using your beacon. Albeit the beacon is the primary rescue tool for backcountry skiers, RECCO reflectors should always be used. Even for people venturing far into the backcountry the RECCO System saves significant search-time when a rescue team responds.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Whistler SAR beneficiary of lawsuit

Whistler Search and Rescue has received a boost to its annual budget this year, thanks to a large donation from a recent lawsuit settlement.
The organization received a total of $54,000 after Maxwell Buhler, president of Whistler Snowboard Tours, chose the group as the recipient of money from a class action suit against Whistler Cable Television Ltd.
This is the first time in Canadian history that a plaintiff was able to select who the recipient of a settlement surplus would be.
The money comes from a lawsuit Buhler filed against Whistler Cable two years ago. Buhler alleged the company was overcharging clients. A settlement was reached between the two groups in February, and $70,000 was put aside to reimburse those who were part of the suit. The deadline to join the suit was in August. Notices were posted in local papers for three weeks.
Part of the agreement was that any money left over from the fund would go to SAR. Only a few people applied for a reimbursement, leaving $54,000 for the local non-profit.

Monday, March 05, 2007

New Truck

Thanks to our American Friends of Whistler for the donation of our new search and rescue vehicle.

For the first time in its 35-year history Whistler Search and Rescue have their own dedicated rescue vehicle, thanks to a donation from members of the American Friends of Whistler.

This dedicated 4x4 crew-cab truck and custom-built Spacekap rescue vehicle will be fully equipped with everything the team needs for any situation that may arise during the course of each search and rescue. The vehicle can also serve as a forward command post and communications relay during searches and rescues. The crew-cab provides space for six team members and the Spacekap allows rescued subjects to be safely transported, by stretcher if needed, in an enclosed vehicle. Prior to receiving this vehicle, Whistler Search and Rescue teams relied on their members’ vehicles and had to load equipment each time they received a call out. This new vehicle will be ready to go with all equipment on board 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months of the year, ensuring an efficient response to each call and the safe recovery of the subject(s).

Backcountry Incidents

Whistler SAR has been receiving many calls of distress from lost skiers, and snowboarders during the last few weeks, and recently with fatal consequences.

Backcountry users in the Whistler area should be prepared to navigate in whiteout conditions, have knowledge of local terrain, proper outdoor gear, a buddy capable of companion rescue, first aid skills, and avalanche training. Cell phones work in some areas, and not in others if your lost conserve your batteries. Always tell someone responsible where you are going, and your time of return, or file a itinerary with the mountain. If you are lost in the backcountry find a location where you will be visible from the air, and note any prominent landmarks, make a shelter, and stay put.

Whistler SAR would like to remind people that often they will not be reported missing early enough in the day to launch a search, and therefore stand a very good chance of spending the night out. Very likely there will be consequences to your actions..

Many tracks have been spotted from the air from people in precarious situations off the backside of Whistler mtn. (LEFT OF THE KHYBER) wandering aimlessly through cliff bands, and gullies going up and down all over the place many of the incidents have gone largely unreported probably because no one knew they were out there. If you decide to duck the rope find a local who has been here for a more than couple seasons, and be prepared for self rescue.

If you require assitance dial 911..

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Team Member of the month

Scott Aitken

Good job Scotty!