Recent technical and strategical developments have increased the survival chances for avalanche victims. Still hundreds of people, primarily recreationists, get caught and buried by snow avalanches every year. About 100 die each year in the European Alps-and many more worldwide. Refining concepts for avalanche rescue means to optimize the procedures such that the survival chances are maximized in order to save the greatest possible number of lives. Avalanche rescue includes several parameters related to terrain, natural hazards, the people affected by the event, the rescuers, and the applied search and rescue equipment. The numerous parameters and their complex interaction make it unrealistic for a rescuer to take, in the urgency of the situation, the best possible decisions without clearly structured, easily applicable decision support systems. In order to analyse which measures lead to the best possible survival outcome in the complex environment of an avalanche accident, we present a numerical approach, namely a Monte Carlo simulation. We demonstrate the application of Monte Carlo simulations for two typical, yet tricky questions in avalanche rescue: (1) calculating how deep one should probe in the first passage of a probe line depending on search area, and (2) determining for how long resuscitation should be performed on a specific patient while others are still buried. In both cases, we demonstrate that optimized strategies can be calculated with the Monte Carlo method, provided that the necessary input data are available. Our Monte Carlo simulations also suggest that with a strict focus on the "greatest good for the greatest number", today's rescue strategies can be further optimized in the best interest of patients involved in an avalanche accident.
Reiweger, I., Genswein, M., Paal, P., & Schweizer, J. (2017). A concept for optimizing avalanche rescue strategies using a Monte Carlo simulation approach. PLoS ONE, 12(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175877