A lot of efforts have been made to further improve RECCO since 1983, and significant steps have been taken in recent years. With RECCO, rescue services have an extra resource in their search for people who for example are lost in the outdoors or have been the victim of an avalanche. It is never a substitute for the trinity of avalanche beacon, shovel and probe, but in the four cases below you can see that RECCO can be life-saving.
In the Swiss area of Jaun a 22-year-old man was hit by an avalanche. No skier in the group of three carried an avalanche beacon, shovel or probe. Fortunately, a witness was present who could immediately call in the rescue services. The REGA searched for the victim with an avalanche dog and a RECCO detector.
“The avalanche dog marked a zone after 10 minutes, but the probing was unsuccessful. The rescue team immediately got a signal nearby with the RECCO detector and was able to pinpoint the victim. The position of the victim was confirmed with the probe and after 40 minutes of digging, the skier was found alive and conscious on a depth of 3.20 meters. He was rescued about 1 hour and 10 minutes after the burial and transported to the hospital. He is fine today."
It is clear that this victim was very lucky and could be found thanks to the avalanche dog and the RECCO system.
A family skiing with two children was skiing off-piste near the Chaupalin (avalanche hazard was three at the time), when the family's mother was buried under an avalanche. Rescue workers from TéléChampéry quickly arrived and with the help of RECCO she was located and released from the avalanche in less than 20 minutes (she was under 80 cm of snow).
Two off-piste skiers (in a group of four) were buried under an avalanche in Baqueira Beret in Spain. Thanks to the RECCO system, the first victim was located within 35 minutes and released by the emergency services. He was very lucky because he was still conscious. Here, too, no one from the group carried an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe. An extensive case report has been written about this accident and has been published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine.
After a huge avalanche in the ski area of the Hahnenkamm near Höfen, Reutte the victim was located thanks to the RECCO system. The man was carrying an avalanche beacon, but the rescue services have been unable to locate the man, probably due to interferences. After an hour the man was released alive.
In the above cases, almost all victims have been very lucky, especially when you consider the time were buried under the snow. After all, the chances of survival decrease quickly if you are under the snow for more than fifteen minutes. It should be clear that off-piste skiing or snowboarding always starts with knowledge and the right gear (avalanche beacon, shovel and probe). However, the above victims were lucky that they could also be detected by RECCO.