Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

The majority of us have never attended an ICAR conference but being able to sign up for the virtual 2020 congress was a great opportunity. The conference was due to have been held in Greece and, like most other events since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was postponed and is scheduled for October 2021, in Greece. Chris Cookson attended from the comfort of his desk at home.

you see that presenter Renaud Gillermet works in the mountains around Grenoble. DAY 2 The second day, moderated by Stephanie Thomas (ICAR AvaCom Vice President), began with a review of avalanche accidents during the 2019/2020 season, from around the world, including Scotland. Next, Cody Lockhart and Jen Reddy, from Teton County SAR, used a case study to illustrate the importance of a specific approach to giving psychological first aid to avalanche victims and their companions. This could also be applied to rescuers and other types of rescues, not just avalanches. Dr Malin Zachau took an in-depth look at avalanche accidents in New Zealand, looking at the implications for mountain rescue and next up was AvaLife, a survival chance optimisation decision-support tool and avalanche patient protocol. The rather sombrely-titled ‘Death Registry’, saw Dr John Ellerton provide an update on the ICAR Rescuers’ Fatality Project. The aim of this project is twofold: firstly to enquire and analyse rescue fatalities during training and rescues and secondly to provide a ‘Line of Duty’ to give respect to mountain rescuers who die during service. At the Chamonix ICAR conference there was agreement to add near-misses to the data collection. The review looked at whether the project was required, what the challenges are and what the next steps should be. The last presentation was a case study of an avalanche rescue on the Dachstein mountain in March 2020, in which five people died whilst snowshoeing. This was a large-scale operation involving lots of rescuers and quite a number of helicopters. DAY 3 The third day was moderated by Gebhard Barbisch (ICAR TerCom President). ‘Near Miss Reporting: Improving Risk Assessment by Sharing Lessons Learned’, from Dale Wang (MRA), looked at what a near-miss was, why reporting is important and the associated objectives, some case studies and consideration of how we can better risk- manage training and rescues in the future. Closer to home, Alan Carr of Mountain Rescue Ireland (MRI) talked about ‘Risk and Assurance’ and the development in Ireland of the National Search and Rescue Plan for air, land and sea, search and rescue. I was impressed with the bigger picture this plan looks to address, the joined-up way they’re going about this and their desire for assurance from all stakeholders.

Registering was easy, with no cost and you can still catch up with the presentations at , along with video highlights from previous ICAR conferences. It’s well worth a look, a good flavour of what ICAR is about and what it might be like to attend in person. The 2020 virtual conference ran over two weekends in October and was very well put together, with the presentations themselves pre-recorded. Presenters were available to answer questions live via the chat, and also on camera for a few minutes following the presentation. These Q&A sessions follow the presentation in the recordings, where some very relevant questions are asked and answered. DAY 1 The first day was moderated by Charley Shimanski, president of the Air Rescue Commission. Following an introduction and welcome by ICAR President, Franz Stämpfli, the first presentation — not unexpectedly, given the year we’ve had and the reason the conference took place online — was titled ‘Covid-19 Effect on Mountain Rescue’. Dr John Ellerton, currently president of the ICAR Medical Commission, provided a great resumé of how Covid has impacted mountain rescue globally, and the PPE use and guideline changes required, with a particular focus on what’s happened within MREW and his own team, Patterdale MRT. This included a critique of Covid-19 risk assessments, with a case study. Other commission presidents contributed with the impact of the pandemic for their own commissions. The avalanche commission report, presented by Stephanie Thomas, looked at the lessons learned and also looked forward to the next winter season from the point of view of forecasting avalanches, prevention work, educators and guides, highway patrol/road work and ski patrol, as well as search and rescue. It finished with a look at mental health strategies. The Air Rescue Commission report, presented by Charley Shimanski, looked at the use of PPE in helicopter rescue operations, along with protocols for protecting the crew and patient transport

and, finally, decontamination of the aircraft. ‘Accidents and Incidents in Helicopter Rescues’ covered accidents and incidents from the last twelve months or so, along with recently published air accident investigation reports. If you’ve ever heard people say things like, ‘helicopter accidents account for the highest death toll amongst rescuers’, this presentation may give some context to that, and perhaps explain why, as aviation in general, there is such focus on investigating and learning from air accidents and incidents. It also demonstrates that it’s not just rescuers who get killed in these accidents. Some really good learning points were covered, that make sense to consider further afield than air rescue. Well worth a watch. And to highlight the issue of rescue helicopter safety, since the ICAR Virtual Conference, a further five people died in a rescue helicopter crash in the French Alps in early December. In conclusion, the sharing of incident and accidents reports was seen as a strength and key to improving safety. It was also noted that around 50% of accidents/incidents involved winching. The third presentation about the role of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the relationship between ICAR and the EASA included an interesting section (36:16) on drones and the ICAR Interdisciplinary Drone Working Group — more of which later. The session on dynamic winching operations was intriguing, and presented an approach to stopping people being winched into a rescue helicopter from spinning by quickly moving to forward flight, so the downwash falls behind those being winched rather than not acting upon them. Great footage of this technique in operation by Air Zermatt. An organisation called Lifeseeker provided what they refer to as an airborne phone location system (25:21). This looks to be a very exciting system, with a version for use from helicopters and drones, that locates people via their mobile phone. The final presentation was about Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), in flights for rescue operation, for use when visibility is poor and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) can’t be used, or for specific flight corridors. This all makes sense, even to the layperson, when



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