Adventure brings us to some dangerous conditions, and for hikers and backcountry skiers the thrill of the snowy mountains puts us in the path of deadly avalanches. The best safety measure is to avoid area of teetering snow and ice buildup, but as a precaution your team members can wear avalanche rescue beacons. Accepting the risk that you may be struck and buried by a landslide of snow and debris you can at least be be prepared with an electronic device that sends out a radio signal that can be pinpointed by any survivors. When you set out in an area that has any danger of unstable snow accumulation you wear the avalanche beacon or transponder between layers of clothing near your body heat to hel the electronics work better.
You have it in transmit mode while you're hiking in the snow, and if you're hit with an avalanche and you're buried, the device will continue transmitting. Survivors above would then immediately switch to receive mode and begin sweeping to find transmitting signals buried beneath the snow. The mortality rate for avalanches is pretty high, 50 to 75%, and properly employing an avalanche beacon can help increase chances for survival. Older signal receivers did not get a precise reading, so it would take a whole team to sweep the area to nail down the direction of the strongest signal. This would lengthen the time required to located and dig out the victims, and beyond 30 minutes the chances for survival all but dry out. Newer models have sohpisticated electonics built in and the receiver can immediately pinpoint the signal direction of the buried avalanche beacon.
It is essential to have shovels to dig down because there is usually a lot of rough material to get through, not just snow. It also helps to have probe poles to locate the victim, and a very successful saftey strategy for avalanches is an airbag that quickly fills up and keeps the victim higher in the wave of snow. Online retailers like REI.com and L.L. Bean have a great selection of hiking gear and deep discounts, even with free shipping on some orders. You can rent avalanche beacons for your hiking trip, and just like bringing a Gamow bag or personal altitude chamber when you go hiking at high elevations, it's the extra safety gear that will make the difference when you need it. The equipment is useless if you don't operate it properly, so make sure you seek out expert training and that everyone on your team is one hundred percent on understanding and employing it. Any of you could be the only survivor after an avalanche and your competence with the avalanche beacon will determine who will survive.