by Walter W. Murray, survival expert
In a race against time, Italian rescue crews found eight people alive in the kitchen of an avalanche-crushed hotel on Friday — an incredible discovery that boosted spirits two days after a deadly snow slide buried around 30 people in the resort.
How did they survive?
Located in a remote area at the base of the Gran Sasso mountain, the luxury ski resort was virtually demolished with little warning and guests were trapped inside.
The avalanche shouldn’t have been a big surprise. A series of earthquakes and heavy snowfall created the perfect recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, the signs were ignored – and now many families have paid the ultimate price.
If you happen to find yourself in the path of an avalanche, there are some things you can do to increase your odds of survival. You won’t have time to outrun it. Ideally, you want to run to the outside edge of the avalanche. Don’t try to run or ski downhill to outrun it. You won’t.
Obviously, this is going to be tough, but people who panic in an avalanche open their mouths. Don’t scream and yell. Instead, take a deep breath and keep your mouth closed.
You don’t want to inhale the snow. It will end up in your nostrils, mouth and even down your throat.
If you see or hear the avalanche coming, crouch low and turn your back. Brace for impact. If you can, hold onto a tree.
If there is a large boulder or tree, you can try to take cover behind it. If you are on a roadway, a vehicle can provide some cover. Any large object will create a void, which can provide airspace.
As the avalanche is pushing you down a hillside, try to stay on top by swimming. Use your arms and legs to propel your body to the top of the mountain of snow.
Your main goal is stay as close to the surface as possible. It will make it easier for you to get out on your own if needed and rescuers to find you.
Use Your Arms to Cover Your Face
Putting your arms over your head and arms is going to create a small space around your face. When you come to a rest, this small space will provide you with a small amount of air.
Yes, spit. If the spit falls in your face, you are facing up and can start trying to dig your way out. If the spit falls into the hole, you are facing downwards. You will need to try and kick or maneuver around to alert rescuers to your presence.
Raise Your Hand
As the snow slide starts to slow, put your arm up. You want to give rescuers a place to start digging. Don’t try to yell or shout—the snow is going to muffle your voice and you risk getting snow in your mouth.
The weight of the snow can be crushing. Your main goal will be to get out as soon as possible. The snow will change from a powdery, fluid snow to a heavy cement-like material — speed is of the essence.
If you are the lone survivor, try to pinpoint where you last saw a person and start digging. Often, going for help eats up precious time.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is a survival expert with decades of experience in prepping and the author of “The Case For The Coming Totalitarianism”.