Recco Reflectors – some thoughts?

Recco Reflectors – any ideas?

I wrote the other day on my blog about drones and got this reply on another subject from an Avalanche expert Davy Gunn in Glencoe. It reminded me of the Recco Reflectors a fairly cheap idea that may give you that chance of survival in an avalanche, there is some information that I found from the web that may help you have a think. It is no substitute for the normal avalanche preparedness and one of the best ideas to go on a course and get an update or instruction on avalanche training and prevention. The number of people who are now ski mountaineering in Scotland or snowboarding in remote area mostly of piste need all the help they can get. It is worth a thought and I would appreciate any comments.

I have spoken to many experts from overseas and few understand why we in Scotland have a history in the outdoor world of not using Avalanche Transceiver’s? Yet abroad they are wildly accepted and why has RECCO not been added into winter equipment as part of the clothing/footwear?

Davey Gunn

Drones will certainly have some place Dave. They are being tested with RECCO as well. RECCO is so good from the air and although not as good as companion rescue it astounds me that its uptake by SAR in Scotland is so low compared to the rest of the world. No transceiver culture in the UK nut RECCO reflectors are cheap as chips and a lot better than not being found or waiting until stabbed by 3m javlein!

Sold by pair

Description

The RECCO® reflector is permanently affixed to skiers and snowboarders while they are recreating in the mountains. The small piece weighs less than four grams and is designed into commercially available outerwear, helmets, boots and protection gear. This ensures the reflector won’t be left in the car, stashed mistakenly in the lodge or forgotten at home. It is a non-powered device, meaning 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 actual component is a small electronic transponder with a copper aerial and a diode. Similar to a thin, printed circuit card and surrounded by protective weatherproof plastic, it is factory mounted to the exterior of gear that is unlikely to be torn off in the event of an avalanche. The reflector is engineered to sit slightly raised from the body and is placed in a specific external configuration for optimal reflection in the event of a burial.

The two-part technology operates on the frequency-doubling principle. The RECCO reflector bounces back the directional radar signal to the searcher and doubles the frequency, allowing the operator of the RECCO detector to actually hear where the burial is located. This enables rapid pinpointing of the signal and tracks searchers on a direct path to the burial. The reflectors are most effective when worn on a helmet or in pairs–pant and jacket or left and right boot–due to the unpredictable orientation of avalanche burials.

Unlike operating a transceiver, which requires education and practice, there is no learning curve for use of the RECCO reflector. It is integrated into commercially available gear by the manufacturer and therefore requires no additional investment by the on-hill user. The reflector can be washed without damage and will not interfere with any electronic device since it does not transmit any sort of signal. And, with only a passive role to play in the rescue, the RECCO reflector does not compete with other search methods and therefore functions as an effective complement to–but not a replacement for–wearing a transceiver. RECCO reflectors do not prevent avalanches nor do they guarantee location or survival in the event of a burial, but they do provide one more chance for skiers and snowboarders to be found quickly by organized rescue.

recco systeme

 

 

 

The RECCO® reflector is permanently affixed to skiers and snowboarders while they are recreating in the mountains. The small piece weighs less than four grams and is designed into commercially available outerwear, helmets, boots and protection gear. This ensures the reflector won’t be left in the car, stashed mistakenly in the lodge or forgotten at home. It is a non-powered device, meaning 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 actual component is a small electronic transponder with a copper aerial and a diode. Similar to a thin, printed circuit card and surrounded by protective weatherproof plastic, it is factory mounted to the exterior of gear that is unlikely to be torn off in the event of an avalanche. The reflector is engineered to sit slightly raised from the body and is placed in a specific external configuration for optimal reflection in the event of a burial.

The two-part technology operates on the frequency-doubling principle. The RECCO reflector bounces back the directional radar signal to the searcher and doubles the frequency, allowing the operator of the RECCO detector to actually hear where the burial is located. This enables rapid pinpointing of the signal and tracks searchers on a direct path to the burial. The reflectors are most effective when worn on a helmet or in pairs–pant and jacket or left and right boot–due to the unpredictable orientation of avalanche burials.

Unlike operating a transceiver, which requires education and practice, there is no learning curve for use of the RECCO reflector. It is integrated into commercially available gear by the manufacturer and therefore requires no additional investment by the on-hill user. The reflector can be washed without damage and will not interfere with any electronic device since it does not transmit any sort of signal. And, with only a passive role to play in the rescue, the RECCO reflector does not compete with other search methods and therefore functions as an effective complement to–but not a replacement for–wearing a transceiver. RECCO reflectors do not prevent avalanches nor do they guarantee location or survival in the event of a burial, but they do provide one more chance for skiers and snowboarders to be found quickly by organized rescue.

Some Questions often asked?

I’ve seen ski jackets carrying the name Recco. Is it a designer label?

Far from being simply fashion items, the Recco range is life-affirming. A small (2cm x 6cm) Recco reflector is sewn into jackets or fixed permanently on ski boots. In the event of being buried alive by an avalanche, rescue teams armed with Recco detectors can more quickly locate victims.

I’ve already got a ski jacket. What should I do?

Fear not, there’s no need to buy new winter kit to get yourself protected. You can get a pair of Recco Avalanche Reflectors. You stick these to the side of each boot, whether they’re your own pair or simply rented for the holiday.

Is Recco detection used worldwide?

No, but it is widespread across the main ski regions of Europe and North America. For a list of the ski areas currently covered, visit recco.com.

Where can I buy them?

A pair of Recco reflectors costs £15.50, plus p&p, from Travel Paraphernalia (01295 750100, travelparaphernalia.com).

Some info from RECCO
I am Dale Atkins with RECCO AB (we’re a Swedish company), and over the past few winters there have been some writings about RECCO: some good, some bad, and a lot somewhere in between. I would like to give some accurate information about our system, but first I would like to introduce myself, give a brief answer to Mtsprings’ questions, and respond to eight common myths about RECCO.

I am the training and education manager or North America. Prior to that I worked as an avalanche forecaster and researcher for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for 19 years. Along the way I have had 30+ years of mountain rescue experience and 20 years of professional ski patrolling. As a rescuer I have dug out enough bodies (starting in ’74) to fill a bus. As a researcher I have formally investigated hundreds and hundreds of avalanche accidents; co-authored the 4th volume of The Snowy Torrents. Currently, I am writing the 5th volume (to be published next fall) of The Snow Torrents — US avalanche accidents from 1987 to (maybe) 2007. Besides RECCO and other things, I also serve as the vice-president to the Avalanche Rescue Commission of the International Commission for Alpine Rescue. Professionally, I have worked with and around avalanches since the early 1980s.

To Mtspring:
The RECCO System is not a substitute for a transceiver (see myth 1 below); however, our system provides pretty decent security at most of the avi-prone resorts in North America. At most resorts RECCO is now part of the first response, this was not true even a few years ago. Reflectors (should always have two) integrated into clothing, boots, helmets are better, but adhesive-backed reflectors — sold in pairs — are available from mountaingear.com. Keep in mind that no device — transceiver, RECCO, airbag, AvaLung, etc — guarantees survival. Even with transceivers mortality is about 50%, and this year it has been much worse. RECCO reflectors provide a basic and inexpensive rescue system, but knowledge most important. Take the time for you and your kids — like some of the writers posted — to get educated about avalanches, always buddy up when riding, and also visit and talk with patrollers about conditions too. Just like in the backcountry, this winter has served as a tragic reminder that some days are better than others to visit steep terrain.

Here are some common myths about RECCO.

1. RECCO replaces the transceiver.
?FACT: RECCO supplements the transceiver. We want and encourage people to get and learn how to use transceivers. The beacon is the best tool for companion rescue. RECCO is a system when someone needs more help than their friends can provide.

2.I already have a transceiver, I don’t need RECCO.?
FACT: Even experienced skiers/riders forget to carry or turn on their transceiver. We are human and thus fallible. RECCO provides a basic, simple and inexpensive rescue system for all: from newbies ignorant of avalanche dangers (therefore will never have a transceiver) to the super-experienced and savvy who makes a mistake.

3. RECCO adversely affects avalanche rescue beacons. ?
FACT: No. The two systems work on very different frequencies and cause no interferences. In fact the Barryvox VS 2000 Pro transceiver (sold in Europe) has a RECCO reflector inside the beacon. RECCO’s new detector also has a beacon receiver, so one rescuer can do both jobs.

4. I can just put a RECCO reflector in my pocket.
?FACT: Please don’t. The adhesive-backed reflectors are designed to work best when attached to hard-shell boots or helmets. With soft-shell snowboard boots the reflector can also be placed in between a boot shell and liner. Simply dropping a reflector into a pocket can dramatically reduce system performance. Reflectors integrated (on the inside or outside) on jackets, pants, boots, helmets, body protection are specially designed and placed for this application. We also recommend that people wear two reflectors.

5. Gives a false sense of security.?
FACT: Some people will use safety equipment — including beacons — as an excuse to engage in riskier actions. How many of us — myself included — have skied a steep slope with pretty suspect instability just because we wore a transceiver and were with good friends who carried big shovels? Education is our best defense and RECCO works hard to motivate people to get educated about avalanches.

6. Organized rescue is too slow.
?FACT: Organized rescue is getting faster because A. cell phones B. helicopters C. proximity D. new search technology?
Organized rescue has gotten much faster in recent years; however, rescue teams are still stymied by having to use probe poles to find about half of all buried victims. A probe pole is like using a needle to find another needle in a haystack. Today’s search times (in the US) by organized rescue teams are only slightly faster than avalanche search times (time spent searching) in the 1980s. When the results of the few avalanche rescue dogs cases are removed, the times are nearly identical. Transceivers and RECCO can search areas in minutes that can take hundreds of rescuers many hours to probe. Rescue dogs are much slower, but still many times faster than a probe pole.

The best example of a fast rescue occurred last April in Colorado when a cornice collapsed beneath a snowshoer. She was buried with a hand out but could not be seen by her companion. A 911 call sent a helicopter with rescuers who found her, evacuated her to hospital, and returned to search for her companion before he was even able to reach the avalanche debris.

7. RECCO only finds dead bodies.?
FACT: RECCO finds people, dead and alive. Every year we find a few people alive (in Europe), which makes them and their families pretty happy. For years RECCO was used in the secondary (or later) levels of a search. When used one, two, three days (or later), it’s no surprise RECCO found dead bodies, but an interesting trend was noticed. Once the detector arrived on scene the searches were taking only minutes.

8. Too few places equipped with detectors.?
FACT: Worldwide more than 600 rescue bases are equipped with detectors. In the US and Canada we have equipped about 120 resorts (click here for a list). Many more organizations, especially SAR teams, in North America are slated for detectors.

I hope I have provided some answers and information. If anyone has questions, please contact me by PM or via recco.com. Thank you for taking the time to read this message.

Think Snow,
Dale Atkins
RECCO AB

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Equipment, Mountain rescue, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Recco Reflectors – some thoughts?

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks Dale that was a really informative response

    Kind Regards

    Chris

    Liked by 1 person

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