EMS Education Tips EMS Tips

Avalanche CE Lesson for EMTs and Paramedics (#31DaysofCE)

As I squeezed my arms to my chest harder to stay warm I pondered the several feet of snow between me and the blue sky. I knew I had only been buried for a few minutes but it seemed like half a day because of the sudden change from full daylight to the barely visible dark blue of the small cavern that I was trapped. I had to force myself to think of something else or I would start to feel the creep of anxiety, tachycardia, and tachypnea. I was on the side of a mountain, buried under about a meter of snow, and awaiting rescue.

A few minutes earlier I had been intentionally buried by a ski patroller. Now I was waiting for my friend Rocco’s rescue dog to find my scent and follow it to its source. I audibly let out a sigh of relief when I heard the dog barking, but the snow muffled the sound so I quickly began to wonder … how far was Jaffe? was he looking in the right place?

The barking grew louder. Then it was right over my head. The snow around me began to tremble and crumble. Above me Jaffe was digging into the snow with everything he had. He continued to bark as he dug.

Suddenly the snow fell away and there was a momentary shock of blue sky that was quickly replaced by the black block head of a slobbering labrador retriever. With one swipe of my tongue Jaffe wiped my goggles clean off my face. Then we played tug on steep slope until he nearly pulled my arm out of its socket.

Jaffe da bum - avalanche rescue dogJaffe was trained and handled by paramedic and professional ski patroller Rocco Altobelli. Rocco and I produced and designed an online education program for EMTs and Paramedics about Avalanche: Rescue, Injury, and Treatment. Even if you don’t live in an avalanche pathway you will learn some interesting concepts for caring for patients that suffer from cold exposure, debris burial, blunt chest trauma and asphyxiation.

The CE lesson is approved for CECBEMS for 1.0 credits and is available to and CentreLearn users.

If you are a regular traveler in avalanche country to ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, climb, or hike learn more about avalanche behavior and avoidance. Check out these resources:

  1. Visit to find the nearest Avalanche 1 education course and avalanche forecast center
  2. Check out the Backcountry Access avalanche safety and education resources
  3. Read Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard (Amazon link)
  4. Watch this amazing video.

This is the third installment of the series of posts for December, 31 Days of Con Ed.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.