Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spider Bites and Scorpion Stings

The black widow spider is identified by a red hourglass on its abdomen. Only the female bites, and it has a neurotoxic venom. The initial pain is not severe, but severe local pain rapidly develops. The pain gradually spreads over the entire body and settles in the abdomen and legs. Abdominal cramps and progressive nausea, vomiting, and a rash may occur. Weakness, tremors, sweating, and salivation may occur. Anaphylactic reactions can occur. Symptoms begin to regress after several hours and are usually gone in a few days. Threat for shock. Be ready to perform CPR. Clean and dress the bite area to reduce the risk of infection. An antivenin is available.

The funnelweb spider is a large brown or gray spider found in Australia. The symptoms and the treatment for its bite are as for the black widow spider.

The brown house spider or brown recluse spider is a small, light brown spider identified by a dark brown violin on its back. There is no pain, or so little pain, that usually a victim is not aware of the bite. Within a few hours a painful red area with a mottled cyanotic center appears. Necrosis does not occur in all bites, but usually in 3 to 4 days, a star-shaped, firm area of deep purple discoloration appears at the bite site. The area turns dark and mummified in a week or two. The margins separate and the scab falls off, leaving an open ulcer. Secondary infection and regional swollen lymph glands usually become visible at this stage. The outstanding characteristic of the brown recluse bite is an ulcer that does not heal but persists for weeks or months. In addition to the ulcer, there is often a systemic reaction that is serious and may lead to death. Reactions (fever, chills, joint pain, vomiting, and a generalized rash) occur chiefly in children or debilitated persons.

Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders found mainly in the tropics. Most do not inject venom, but some South American species do. They have large fangs. If bitten, pain and bleeding are certain, and infection is likely. Treat a tarantula bite as for any open wound, and try to prevent infection. If symptoms of poisoning appear, treat as for the bite of the black widow spider.

Scorpions are all poisonous to a greater or lesser degree. There are two different reactions, depending on the species:

• Severe local reaction only, with pain and swelling around the area of the sting. Possible prickly sensation around the mouth and a thick-feeling tongue.

• Severe systemic reaction, with little or no visible local reaction. Local pain may be present. Systemic reaction includes respiratory difficulties, thick-feeling tongue, body spasms, drooling, gastric distention, double vision, blindness, involuntary rapid movement of the eyeballs, involuntary urination and defecation, and heart failure. Death is rare, occurring mainly in children and adults with high blood pressure or illnesses.

Treat scorpion stings as you would a black widow bite.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Volcano

Did you know there are 169 active volcanoes in the U.S. … and 54 of them are a very high or high threat to public safety? Let’s discuss what a volcano is and why it can be dangerous to your health and belongings.

A volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a reservoir of molten rock (like a huge pool of melted rocks) below the earth’s surface. Unlike mountains, which are pushed up from the earth’s crust, volcanoes are formed by their buildup of lava, ash flows, and airborne ash and dust. When pressure from gases and molten rock becomes strong enough to cause an explosion, it erupts and starts to spew gases and rocks through the opening.

Volcanic eruptions can hurl hot rocks (sometimes called tephra) for at least 20 miles (32 km) and cause sideways blasts, lava flows, hot ash flows, avalanches, landslides and mudflows (also called lahars). They can also cause earthquakes, thunderstorms, flash floods, wildfires, and tsunamis. Sometimes volcanic eruptions can drive people from their homes forever.

Fresh volcanic ash is not like soft ash in a fireplace. Volcanic ash is made of crushed or powdery rocks, crystals from different types of minerals, and glass fragments that are extremely small like dust. But it is hard, gritty, smelly, sometimes corrosive or acidic (means it can wear away or burn things) and does not dissolve in water.

The ash is hot near the volcano but is cool when it falls over great distances. Ashfall is very irritating to skin and eyes and the combination of ash and burning gas can cause lung irritation or damage to small infants, the elderly or people with breathing problems

Some tips to think about and do Before / During / After a Volcanic Eruption:

Prepare - Try to cover and protect machinery, electronic devices, downspouts, etc. from ashfall.

Learn alert levels - Ask emergency management office which volcano warnings or alert levels are used since they vary depending on where you live (can be alert levels, status levels, condition levels or color codes).

Make a plan - Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kits / BOBs. (Note: Put in goggles or safety glasses and dust masks for each family member to protect eyes and lungs from ash.)

Be ready to evacuate - Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

Watch out - Eruptions cause many other disasters:
  • flying rocks - hurled for miles at extremely fast speeds
  • mudflows, landslides or lahars - they move faster than you can walk or run
  • fires - hot rocks and hot lava will cause buildings and forests to burn
  • lava flows - burning liquid rock and nothing can stop it
  • gases and ash - try to stay upwind since winds will carry these -- they are very harmful to your lungs
  • vog - volcanic smog forms when sulfur dioxide and other pollutants react with oxygen, moisture and sunlight – can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and lung damage

IF INDOORS - Stay in, but be aware of ash, rocks, mudflows or lava!
Close all windows, doors, vents and dampers and turn off A/C and fans to keep ash fall out.
Put damp towels under doorways and drafty windows.
Bring pets inside (if time, move livestock into shelters).
Listen for creaking on your rooftop (in case ashfall gets heavy -- could cause it to collapse!)

IF OUTDOORS - Try to get indoors, if not…
Stay upwind so ash and gases are blown away from you.
Watch for falling rocks and, if you get caught in rockfall, roll into a ball to protect your head!
Get to higher ground - avoid low-lying areas since poisonous gases collect there and flash floods could happen.
Use dust-mask or damp cloth to help breathing, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and use goggles.
Ashfall can block out sunlight and may cause lightning.

IF IN A VEHICLE - Avoid driving unless absolutely required.
Slow down -- keep speed at 35 mph (56 km/h) or slower, mainly because of thick dust and low visibility.
Shut off engine and park in garage (driving stirs up ash that can clog motor and damage moving engine parts).
Look upstream before crossing a bridge in case a mudflow or landslide is coming.

Water - Check with authorities before using water, even if eruption was just ash fall (gases and ash can contaminate water reserves). Don’t wash ash into drainpipes, sewers or storm drains since wet ash can wear away metal.

What to wear - If you must be around ash fall, you should wear long sleeve shirts, pants, sturdy boots or shoes, gloves, goggles (or safety glasses) and keep your mouth and nose covered with a dust-mask or damp cloth.

Ash - Dampen ash before sweeping or shoveling buildup so it’s easier to remove and won’t fly back up in the air as much - but be careful since wet ash is slippery. Wear protective clothing and a dust mask too. Realize ash can disrupt lives of people and critters for months.

Protect - Cover machinery and electronic devices like computers.

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? A Disaster Preparedness, Prevention & Basic First Aid Manual (a majority of the proceeds benefit APN – learn more)


Additional Resources:

USGS Volcano Hazards Program http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/ash/

Smithsonian Institute’s Global Volcanism Program http://www.volcano.si.edu/

Volcanoes of the World map http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/find_regions.cfm


Final thoughts: Consider including wind power (or hydro, etc) in your prepping plans since any type of major volcanic eruption could reduce sunlight for days, weeks or longer.

Courtesy of Bill and Janet Liebsch of Arizona Preppers Network

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Anthrax

What Is Anthrax?

Anthrax is a serious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a bacterium that forms spores. A bacterium is a very small organism made up of one cell. Many bacteria can cause disease. A spore is a cell that is dormant (asleep) but may come to life with the right conditions.

There are three types of anthrax:

  • skin (cutaneous)
  • lungs (inhalation)
  • digestive (gastrointestinal)

How Do You Get It?

Anthrax is not known to spread from one person to another.

Anthrax from animals. Humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by breathing in anthrax spores from infected animal products (like wool, for example). People also can become infected with gastrointestinal anthrax by eating undercooked meat from infected animals.

Anthrax as a weapon. Anthrax also can be used as a weapon. This happened in the United States in 2001. Anthrax was deliberately spread through the postal system by sending letters with powder containing anthrax. This caused 22 cases of anthrax infection.


How Dangerous Is Anthrax?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies agents with recognized bioterrorism potential into three priority areas (A, B and C). Anthrax is classified as a Category A agent. Category A agents are those that:

  • pose the greatest possible threat for a bad effect on public health
  • may spread across a large area or need public awareness
  • need a great deal of planning to protect the public’s health

In most cases, early treatment with antibiotics can cure cutaneous anthrax. Even if untreated, 80 percent of people who become infected with cutaneous anthrax do not die. Gastrointestinal anthrax is more serious because between one-fourth and more than half of cases lead to death. Inhalation anthrax is much more severe. In 2001, about half of the cases of inhalation anthrax ended in death.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms (warning signs) of anthrax are different depending on the type of the disease:

  • Cutaneous: The first symptom is a small sore that develops into a blister. The blister then develops into a skin ulcer with a black area in the center. The sore, blister and ulcer do not hurt.
  • Gastrointestinal: The first symptoms are nausea, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea, and fever, followed by bad stomach pain.
  • Inhalation: The first symptoms of inhalation anthrax are like cold or flu symptoms and can include a sore throat, mild fever and muscle aches. Later symptoms include cough, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, tiredness and muscle aches. (Caution: Do not assume that just because a person has cold or flu symptoms that they have inhalation anthrax.)

How Soon Do Infected People Get Sick?

Symptoms can appear within 7 days of coming in contact with the bacterium for all three types of anthrax. For inhalation anthrax, symptoms can appear within a week or can take up to 42 days to appear.

How Is Anthrax Treated?


Antibiotics are used to treat all three types of anthrax. Early identification and treatment are important.

Prevention after exposure. Treatment is different for a person who is exposed to anthrax, but is not yet sick. Health-care providers will use antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, doxycycline, or penicillin) combined with the anthrax vaccine to prevent anthrax infection.

Treatment after infection. Treatment is usually a 60-day course of antibiotics. Success depends on the type of anthrax and how soon treatment begins.


Can Anthrax Be Prevented?


Vaccination. There is a vaccine to prevent anthrax, but it is not yet available for the general public. Anyone who may be exposed to anthrax, including certain members of the U.S. armed forces, laboratory workers, and workers who may enter or re-enter contaminated areas, may get the vaccine. Also, in the event of an attack using anthrax as a weapon, people exposed would get the vaccine.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have Anthrax?

If you are showing symptoms of anthrax infection, call your health-care provider right away.


What Should I Do if I Think I Have Been Exposed to Anthrax?


Contact local law enforcement immediately if you think that you may have been exposed to anthrax. This includes being exposed to a suspicious package or envelope that contains powder.


What Is CDC Doing To Prepare For a Possible Anthrax Attack?

CDC is working with state and local health authorities to prepare for an anthrax attack. Activities include:

  • Developing plans and procedures to respond to an attack using anthrax.
  • Training and equipping emergency response teams to help state and local governments control infection, gather samples, and perform tests. Educating health-care providers, media, and the general public about what to do in the event of an attack.
  • Working closely with health departments, veterinarians, and laboratories to watch for suspected cases of anthrax. Developing a national electronic database to track potential cases of anthrax.
  • Ensuring that there are enough safe laboratories for quickly testing of suspected anthrax cases.
  • Working with hospitals, laboratories, emergency response teams, and health-care providers to make sure they have the supplies they need in case of an attack.


The following is a form message for Federal, State and Local officials to send out in the event of an Anthrax Exposure or Terrorist attack, however it does offer good information, for prevention and preparedness.

Anthrax Exposure Extended Message
Health and Safety Information for the First Hours

POINTS:

1. What is happening?
2. What is anthrax?
3. What are the symptoms of anthrax?
4. Can it be spread from person to person?
5. What to do if you have the symptoms of anthrax
6. What to do if you were at or near the xxx area where anthrax might have been released
7. What to do if you were not near the xxx area where anthrax may have been released but are concerned about it anyway
8. How can you protect yourself?
9. What is being done and how to get more information


What is happening?
  • This is an urgent health message from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Please pay careful attention to this message to protect your health and that of others.
  • Public health officials believe that the spores that cause anthrax disease may have been deliberately released in the xxx area.
  • At this time, we do not know the extent or source of the anthrax release. Local, state, and federal officials, including HHS, FBI, and Homeland Security, are working together. Updated announcements will be made as soon as these officials know more.
  • Anthrax disease is not known to spread from person to person so people do not have to avoid contact with one another.
  • Based on what we know now, only those people who were in xxx area on xxx date are at risk for getting sick.
  • There are treatments for anthrax. Treatment should start as soon as possible after exposure to anthrax.
  • HHS is working to get treatments to the people who need them.
  • We have challenges ahead, and we are working to find out more about this outbreak. By staying informed and following instructions from health officials, you can protect yourself, your family, and the community against this public health threat.
  • For more information about anthrax, visit the HHS website at http://www.hhs.gov, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anthrax page at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/anthrax/, or call the CDC Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-CDC-INFO end_of_the_skype_highlighting for the latest updates.
  • This message contains additional information that can help protect your health and the health of others.


What is anthrax?
  • Anthrax is a disease caused by bacteria that form spores. When a person comes into contact with those spores, they may become ill. The spores can infect your skin, lungs, or digestive system.
  • Some forms of anthrax bacteria exist in nature and can cause disease. It can also be spread on purpose as a powder or through the air. The spores that cause anthrax disease may have been deliberately released in the xxx area.
  • Antibiotics are used to treat all three types of anthrax in your skin, lungs, or digestive system. Early diagnosis and treatment with the right antibiotic is important.

What are the symptoms of anthrax?
  • After contact with the anthrax spores, symptoms of anthrax may appear within 7 days.
  • Depending on how a person comes into contact with the spores, three types of illness can occur.
  1. When a person breathes in the anthrax spores, this is called inhalational anthrax and is the most serious form of the disease. The first symptoms are like those of the flu; later symptoms may include severe breathing problems.
  2. When anthrax spores enter a cut on the skin, this is called cutaneous anthrax and it responds well to treatment. Symptoms include sores or blisters. Initially, these sores or blisters may look like an insect bite.
  3. When a person eats or drinks anthrax spores, this is called gastrointestinal anthrax. Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

Can it be spread from person to person?
  • The anthrax illness does not spread from person to person.
  • People with suspected illness do not need to be quarantined or isolated.
  • Based on what we know now, only those people who were in xxx area on xxx date are at risk for getting anthrax.

What to do if you have symptoms of anthrax
  • If you have been near the xxx area and you think your symptoms might be due to exposure to anthrax, begin treatment as soon as possible.
  • Antibiotics can be used to treat all types of anthrax. However, the right antibiotic must be given quickly to help you recover.
  • Call your doctor or local public health department at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Describe your symptoms and explain that you think you might have been exposed to anthrax and also what symptoms you have.

What to do if you were at or near the xxx location where anthrax might have been released
  • If you have been near xxx location on xxx date, call your doctor or local public health department at xxx-xxx-xxxx for specific instructions on where you can go to see if you have been exposed to anthrax.
  • If contact with anthrax is suspected, antibiotics may help prevent you from getting sick or lessen the illness if it does appear. Treatment may include preventive care for a couple of months with antibiotics and may be combined with a vaccine to help prevent anthrax infection.
  • Health authorities will help determine if you need antibiotics or other medical care. Getting antibiotics or vaccine is not recommended if you have not been exposed to anthrax.


What to do if you were not near the xxx area where anthrax may have been released but are concerned about it anyway
  • It is natural to be concerned or afraid at a time like this. If you do not have any symptoms and were not near the xxx area on xxx date, you most likely have not had contact with anthrax and do not have anthrax disease.
  • By staying informed and following instructions from health officials, you can protect yourself, your family, and the community against this public health threat.
  • Stay informed by turning to the radio, television, or Internet news for updated health and safety announcements.
  • With your cooperation, we will have the best chance to protect the health and safety of our community.
  • Health authorities are working to help people who may have been exposed to anthrax, particularly those who have symptoms of anthrax.

How can you protect yourself?
  • If you see a strange package, envelope, or other container that you suspect may contain anthrax, do not open it. Leave the area and stop others from entering the area. Call 911 or the local police at xxx-xxx-xxxx for more instructions.
  • A vaccine exists to prevent anthrax, but it is not recommended for the general public since few people are normally at risk for anthrax. It may be given to people who have been exposed to anthrax in this current situation.
  • Stay informed. Listen for announcements from public health officials about what areas to avoid.

What is being done and how to get more information
  • Local, state and federal officials, including HHS, FBI, and Homeland Security, are working together. Updated announcements will be made as soon as these officials know more.
  • Public health officials will share information and give more instructions as the situation develops and they learn more.
  • Go to [insert local media information here] to hear the latest information from local officials.
  • For more information on anthrax, visit the HHS website at http://www.hhs.gov, visit the CDC’s anthrax page at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/anthrax/, or call the CDC Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO for the latest updates.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Collapse

Surviving The Collapse of Civilization



How to survive collapse of civilization.







Friday, April 16, 2010

River Crossings

From Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation

Glacial Rivers

River  Crossing Wild and silty rivers run from the park's glaciers to Alaska's coastlines. These rivers look different and act different than most rivers. Icy cold temperatures, fluctuating levels, changing channels, and heavy loads of silt and rock can challenge hikers, boaters, and anglers.



Wide Rocky Beds and Braids
Moving glacial ice scours chunks of bedrock and fine rock flour from the mountainsides. These chunks and bits of rock are mixed into glacier ice and then released in the meltwaters. Large rocks drop out of the stream flow immediately. Smaller ones roll away downstream where they lodge in the river's channels, filling them and eventually diverting the river to a new course. Glacial rivers are constantly shifting from one channel to another, forming many braids in a wide rocky bed. These uneven, shifting rocks can be difficult for a hiker to negotiate.



Silty Water
River  Crossing 2 Fine rock flour washes downstream with the glacier's meltwater. In Chugach the dominant rock is graywacke which colors the streams a muddy gray-brown. These opaque waters hide the river bottom, making crossing on foot uncertain and navigating a boat difficult.



High Water Happens When It's Hot
Most rivers drop during long hot summers. Glacial rivers rise! Glaciers melt more on hot, sunny days. Close to a glacier, river levels rise dramatically on sunny afternoons and drop during cool early morning hours. Rainstorms also increase glacial melt, as well as add their own runoff to a river. Occasionally, large rainstorms will swell glacial rivers and fill all channels from shore to shore. Evidence of these floods is seen in the piles of driftwood left high and dry on gravel islands.



Low Water Happens When It's Not
River  Crossing 3 When days shorten and temperatures drop, so do the rivers. Visitors will hardly recognize these rivers in the winter. Raging torrents become small shallow streams of clear sparkling water that is, until they freeze over!



To Cross or Not To Cross
Many trails and routes in Alaska will lead you to unbridged streams and rivers. Because the water can be cold, opaque and subject to quickly changing levels, a few tips can make your stream crossing safer and more comfortable.



Choose your site
At marked ford sites (like those on the Crow Pass Trail), cross directly between the posts on either side. It's the shallowest place. At unmarked sites, cross at the widest and most shallow place. Avoid cutbanks. Test the water depth with a walking stick or by throwing fist-sized stones ahead and listening to the splash.



River  Crossing 4 Choose your time
Glacial rivers swell under hot sun or heavy rains, and are usually lowest during early morning hours (6 a.m.). If a river looks or feels too full to cross, wait. It may drop significantly. Remember, you never have to cross. You can go back the way you came, or sit and wait for help.



Fuel your body
Adequate food and water will help your body create the necessary energy to fight hypothermia.



Loosen pack straps
Undo the waistbelt so you can drop it if you fall. Seal important items (sleeping bag, dry clothes) in plastic.



Dress Properly
The right clothing will keep you safe and a lot more comfortable. Always wear shoes or boots. Cold temperatures can cause numbness and missteps that lead to foot injuries, a disaster in the backcountry. Don't cross in bare legs. Wear quick drying wool or synthetics, never cotton. Save something warm and dry for the other side, just in case.



Use a good technique
If you are crossing alone, use a stick for extra stability and to explore the bottom. Face the opposite shore or face upstream and cross slowly, letting your feet feel their way. Don't look at the water. Keep your eyes on the far shore to prevent vertigo. Crossing as a group is safer. Stand along the shore in a line, side-by-side, facing the opposite shore. Put the largest and strongest people on the upstream end, and sandwich smaller or weaker people between others. Link arms, or link arms while sharing a stick like a handrail. Enter the water all at the same time, keeping your eyes on the far shore to prevent vertigo.



River  Crossing 1 If you fall
Ditch your gear and swim. Roll over on your back and point your feet downstream so you can fend off boulders. Keep your feet high and don't get them wedged on the bottom. Flipper with your arms toward shore. As soon as you reach shore, get warm and dry. Hypothermia can be a killer.

Kife attack to the back


http://www.5min.com/StreetS... Don't panic! Learn how to take control of the situation and come out alive.

An Airplane Crash


Watch this video for a demonstration of "How to Survive an Airplane Crash". To complete the task, you will need:

An aisle seat, or one close to it
Long-sleeved pants and top, and flat closed-toe shoes
A smoke hood or a wet washcloth

Get started with the first step: Book a seat in the exit row or within five rows of it. People in those seats have the highest survival rates.

For the complete guide, go to http://www.howcast.com/videos/168515-...


A School Shooting



Watch this video for a demonstration of "How To Survive a School or Office Shooting". To complete the task, you will need:

A cool head
Quick reflexes
A little luck

Get started with the first step: Run first; ask questions later. Dont miss your opportunity to escape by wasting time debating whether that noise was really a gunshot.

For the complete guide, go to http://www.howcast.com/videos/217693-...



Hypothermia



From Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation

Hypothermia, or cooling of the body's temperature, can happen any time of the year with fatal results. Most cases occur when temperatures are between 30 and 50 degrees F. Windy conditions and wet clothes can work together to chill the unaware, even on a summer day. Once chilled, the body begins to "shut down". The brain loses function, leading to poor judgment. Hypothermia victims often can't help themselves so it is important for each group member to be aware of prevention and treatment methods.



Water and  Ice Image To Prevent Hypothermia
Dress in layers. The outer layer should be wind and water resistant, and inner layers should be fabrics that are "warm when wet" (wool or synthetics, but not cotton). A hat may be your most important layer in preventing heat loss. Take layers off if you begin to sweat and put them back on when you cool down.
Stay well fueled. Snack on high carbohydrate foods and drink lots of water. Water helps your body turn calories into heat.
Watch for signs of hypothermia. If someone in your party gets cold, take a break to give them more clothes and food. Hypothermia symptoms include: intense shivering, fatigue, stumbling or poor coordination, slurred speech, and irrationality.



To Treat Hypothermia
Shelter the victim from the wind and weather. Remove any wet clothing and place victim in dry clothes or a sleeping bag. If necessary, put another warm person in the sleeping bag with them. If the victim is alert, give them warm liquids and food. In the case of advanced hypothermia, handle very gently and get medical help immediately. Rough handling can cause a heart attack.




An Avalanche





From Alaska Department of Natural Resources


Prevention is the key to avalanche safety. To minimize the risks, know the dangers and warning signs before you travel in the backcountry. Remain constantly aware of changes in the weather and temperature, especially if you are traveling the backcountry for many hours.

Several factors may affect the likelihood of an avalanche, including weather, temperature, slope steepness, slope orientation (whether the slope is facing north or south), wind direction, terrain, vegetation, and general snow pack conditions. Different combinations of these factors can create low, moderate or extreme avalanche conditions.

Avalanches occur when a snow load is so great it can no longer "stick" to a sloped mountain side. The danger is greatest just after a new storm has dropped a fresh load of snow, or high winds have overloaded slopes.

Anything steeper than 25 degrees can avalanche but most avalanches occur on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees. Be wary of steep, smooth, leeward slopes. Choose slopes on the windward side.

The snow itself can be tested on site to see how likely it is to slide. A type of snow called depth hoar (a course, grainy form of snow crystal) similar to dry sand, bonds poorly and creates a very weak layer in the snow pack. Unfortunately, the weather conditions necessary to produce depth hoar most often occur very early in the season, and these weak layers are buried under subsequent snows. Other danger signs include seeing fresh avalanche tracks in the area or hearing "whoomping" noises as you travel across the snow.

Pay attention to the terrain. Bowls and gullies increase the possibility of an avalanche. Heavily forested areas are safer than open spaces.

Before you go into the winter backcountry, take a class and learn to detect and avoid avalanche danger. The internet, library and sporting good stores offer many resources on Avalanche Safety.