Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Airbag Testing

I have been using a Mammut Airbag system for a couple of years now when skiing off piste. At the start of each season its good practice to check the airbag over and do a deployment. In the past I have done a dummy deployment with the cartridge unscrewed but decided it was time to test it with the cartridge in place.

There is evidence that the deployment of airbags in avalanches increases the chances of survival by making the victim have a larger surface area and therefore stay on the top surface of the snow as it slides. When I bought my airbag I was convinced by Swiss Avalanche Institute (SLF) stats that had been collected over the past ten years. Their data shows that in more than 220 airbag deployments, 97 percent had a positive outcome, with the user ending up alive at or near the surface.

In 2012 The Canadian Avalanche Centre did a study that concluded that wearing an airbag will double your chances of survival in incidents involving "critical burials".

There is also evidence that people have been avalanched and killed without ever pulling the handle on the airbag to activate it. (It does not deploy automatically but requires the user to activate it).

Anything process that is required to happen instinctively in the event of emergency is one that we should practice. Other examples in climbing and mountaineering are locking off a belay plate when a partner falls or using the ice axe to arrest a slip.

With that in mind the deployment of an airbag in the event of a real avalanche is going to be more likely if its something you have practiced and conditioned yourself to do. The first step is knowing that your equipment works and being familiar with the amount of pressure required on the handle. Heres the video of me doing that in my kitchen this afternoon!

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