The rescue effort starts even before the avalanche has stopped. The first step in a successful rescue is a tough one in the shock of the moment: someone must pay attention to where a victim is first caught, where the person disappears beneath the snow, and where the point of disappearance on the moving surface of the avalanche finally stops—and be able to relate these three points to fixed objects, such as trees or rocks. With this information, the search area is immediately reduced in size.
Then mark these three points and search. Do NOT go for help. This is a critical principle of avalanche rescue. Do not go for help. The chance of a person surviving depends almost certainly on everyone staying put, searching efficiently, and digging the victim from the snow. You can go for help after the victim is unburied or all search efforts turn out to be futile.
Select a search leader so the operation will be thorough and methodical. Approach the scene carefully, posting an avalanche lookout in case of another slide. Start with a quick scuff search of the snow surface, looking for someone partially buried, any castoff equipment, or any logical spot the victim might have come to a stop against a tree or rock. The missing climber could turn up in this quick and immediate search. If not, the next step is a thorough search with avalanche beacons, if the climbers are carrying them, or with snow probes if they are not.
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