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.

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