Bergwacht Training day including Winch Training and RECCO SAR Helicopter Detector Handling
May 20, 2022
Two RECCO SAR helicopter detectors have been operational at Germany’s mountain rescue stations in Bad Reichenhall and Sonthofen since autumn 2021. On April 30, the Chiemgau Mountain Rescue Service in Ruhpolding organized a winch training that also included the RECCO SAR Helicopter Detector. Due to bad weather, the exercise could not be carried out completely but brought valuable insights into the interaction of those involved.
In Germany, the RECCO helicopter rescue system to search for missing and injured persons is operated by the Bavarian Mountain Rescue Service in cooperation with the Bavarian Police Helicopter Squadron. The 80 kg detector hangs under the helicopter and sends out a directed radar signal that is echoed back by a RECCO reflector integrated in the clothing or equipment of a person. This allows the rescuers to quickly search large areas for missing, lost or injured people. The "Search And Rescue" (SAR) system is a further development of the RECCO handheld detector that has existed since 1983, used to search for a person buried in an avalanche.
The Chiemgau mountain rescue service reported during their annual meeting in April 2022 a record number of 34 mountain fatalities in the region in the previous year with a significant increase in the number of accidents during the summer months. Voluntary mountain rescuers were deployed 867 times in 2021, with 650 deployments during summer, approximately more than 100 summer searches than during the prior summer season. This increase shows the need for a quick, year-round tool, that can be used to search for missing persons in rough terrain.
"The RECCO helicopter detector system has been operational since November 1, 2021," reported the head of the Chiemgau Mountain Rescue Service, Dr. Klaus "Nik" Burger. "There are currently two locations in Germany using the helicopter detectors, Sonthofen and Bad Reichenhall. We are assuming that these units will cover the whole Bavarian Alpine region.”
Twenty mountain rescue operators across Bavaria are currently being trained with the new RECCO units, both flying with the helicopter during the search and operating the detector. "The advantages are obvious," says Burger. "On one hand, the device enables a year-round search, and on the other hand, the search is quick - we can search a square kilometre within six minutes."
In order for rescuers using RECCO’s innovative helicopter rescue system to find a missing person, the lost or injured victim must be equipped with a RECCO rescue reflector. The reflector is light, does not require batteries and is integrated into outdoor clothing or other equipment such as backpacks, hiking shoes and climbing harnesses. "The reflectors are now also available as attachable products," reports Burger.
"Exercises like today are very important for us in order to carry out rescue operations safely and quickly, together with the mountain rescue service," emphasized Peter Kreuzer, Head of Flight Operations at the Bavarian Police Helicopter Squadron. “When push comes to shove, human lives always depend on it. Good interaction is important for the success of the mission because the best pilot and the best operator only work if they are attuned to each other.”
"The detector is attached to the helicopter's hook with a steel cable," explains Andreas Zenz, RECCO SAR project manager at the Chiemgau Mountain Rescue Service. When flying, search corridors of a 100 meters width are scanned. When the detector receives a signal, it emits an audio tone for the operator in the helicopter. "After we hear the first tone, we do a lap to narrow the search down to a smaller area." Once rescuers have located the person they're looking for, the crew either finds a nearby landing pad to let rescuers out or sets down the detector to let them in to be able to lower the mountain rescuers with the winch on rough terrain. "The fine search then begins on the ground, with a hand-held device," says Zenz.
Michael Vierling, the trainer at the mountain rescue service, emphasised: "The tasks that we take on here are normally carried out by full-time air rescuers in other countries, where they are part of the helicopter crew.” In Bavaria, the special feature is that the air rescuers come from the mountain rescue service and are therefore voluntary. "That's the difficulty, as we have to train all volunteers to the level of a full-time rescuer. This is why these exercises are extremely important.”
The mountain rescuers and the pilots were able to practice attaching and detaching the helicopter detector as well as training the take off and landing with the attached search device. Due to the rapidly deteriorating weather, the exercise could not be carried out completely. However, another exercise will follow soon.
Julia Granhed, Communications Manager
RECCO® advanced rescue technology makes outdoor enthusiasts searchable to rescuers in case of an avalanche accident or when lost in the outdoors. The technology builds on a two-part radar system. Rescuers carry RECCO® detectors that send out search signals which are echoed by RECCO® reflectors, carried by the user. RECCO® detectors are used worldwide at more than 900 ski resorts and mountain rescue organizations in 32 countries. RECCO® reflectors are integrated into select apparel, helmets, protection gear and boots manufactured by more than 150 leading outdoor brands. RECCO AB was founded in 1983 in Sweden and is owned by its founder Magnus Granhed and the publicly traded investment company Traction AB (listed on OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm). More info at recco.com