What makes the ABS system such an essential piece of avalanche emergency equipment alongside the avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel? ABS is the only self-rescue system that has proven its life-saving effectiveness over the years. Of the 262 persons whose ABS avalanche airbag was activated, 97% survived, 84% were uninjured. This is no coincidence, which is why you can inform yourself here about the 10 ABS survival principles.
1. Highest Survival Rate
Out of 262 persons with activated ABS® avalanche airbag, 97% survived, and 84% were uninjured.
How does one measure the efficiency of avalanche rescue devices? Very systematically, by analyzing as many real avalanche accidents as possible. Investigations carried out since 1991 by the independent and internationally renowned SLF Swiss Avalanche...
2. German Engineering
The original ABS® self-rescue system – developed, manufactured and tested by avalanche experts since 1985. Survival made in Germany.
Is there anything more valuable than human life? At ABS®, your survival is our priority. Since 1985, the engineers at ABS® have been conducting research into emergency equipment for avalanches in close collaboration with mountain professionals, independent institutes ...
3. Double Safety
Double safety through two separate TwinBags. If one airbag is damaged the other will remain inflated for a sufficient length of time.
Why does the number TWO play such a crucial role in natural balance? Why do we stand on two legs and do why birds fly with two wings? The answer is simple: balance, performance, safety. ...
4. Pneumatic Pull
Modern pyrotechnic-pneumatic activation for maximum reliability.
Why are fractions of seconds critical? You are riding in deep powder. Suddenly a bang. You notice how cracks form across the slope and how you are moving downwards with the snow. Now it's a matter of seconds. Every movement of the hand must be right and there is ...
5. See And Flee
An unobstructed view and complete freedom of movement allow for escape from the avalanche.
Can you escape from an avalanche? Yes, in some cases it is possible. The vast majority of avalanches winter sport enthusiasts get caught up in are known as wind slabs. They are almost always caused by the victim. Wind slabs are usually 50 to 100 meters wide and are less than ...
6. Dynamic Lift
The wide bearing surface due to laterally placed ABS® TwinBags stabilizes the body and increases the lift precisely in the critical avalanche runout zone.
Is the effect of an avalanche airbag based on the same principle as a life jacket? No! This is a common and dangerous misconception. Why? Because an avalanche is not a liquid, like water. It is made of granular material, comprising particles and chunks of ...
7. No Bug Effect
The ABS® TwinBags do not place the body in the dangerous and helpless supine position.
Who wants to lie on their back? The supine position is ideal for relaxing. But in active situations, especially when you need to perform at your best, when trying to escape or when falling, this position is extremely unsuitable. In dangerous situations, ...
8. Maximum Visibility
In 97% of all documented avalanche accidents with activated airbags, the TwinBags were visible on the surface.
How long does it take to rescue a visible avalanche victim? Admittedly, when we developed the ABS® airbag, we initially only considered the "staying on top" requirement, in other words, preventing victims from being buried in the avalanche. But after some initial ...
9. Easy Pack And Use
Simple and safe to pack and quickly ready again for operation - after recommended training activation or in an emergency.
Can I repack my ABS® TwinBag myself after an activation? This is precisely the question we addressed in countless training courses and tests and, as a result, have optimized the packing process countless times. ...
10. Inflate It
Regular test activations at home, in the mountains or at an ABS® dealer.
How can you increase your safety even further? Through regular training.
Your ABS® TwinBags are approved by the German Technical Control Board, TÜV, CE certified and meet the latest safety requirements. But to ensure that you act correctly and do not lose any time in the case of an emergency, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the system. Activate your ABS® TwinBags – whether at home, in the mountains or at a dealer.
Even the best rescue equipment can only be effective if you know how to use it properly. This is particularly true of avalanche airbags. If you need to activate your ABS® TwinBags, they must always be completely ready for use. Every move you make must be right. But you will only achieve this if you perform test activations before the winter season starts. It's not just about automating the sequence of moves. Mental training, uncompromising actions, the absolute will to control the situation, to fight, not to be buried by the mass of snow: all this will help you to react quickly and correctly in the stressful situation of an avalanche.
Practical experience has shown time and again just how important regular training is. This is why ABS® supports personal training activations. We refill the systems for our dealers free of charge, which means you only need to pay a small handling fee. Please make the most of this training. It can be crucial to your survival.
Your survival with your ABS® system depends on whether you can act properly when under stress. Do not leave your life to chance. Please prepare yourself as well as possible by performing regular activations.
OPERATING PRINCIPLE – STAY ON THE SURFACE AND SURVIVE
How do you manage to stay on the surface? The ABS TwinBags not only provide a significant increase in volume, but also an unparalleled dynamic lift due to their streamlined shape. What is decisive is the ratio between additional volume and lifting surface. You can read about the exact relations here.
When in motion, larger objects will always move to the top. This is also true in an avalanche. The rotating snow crystals creep under your body and push you upwards. But because of your higher weight by volume, this upward movement will then cease and you will sink back into the snow.
In order to avoid being buried in an avalanche, you must increase your volume. With a single pull of the activation handle, an additional 170 l of volume is inflated to help you stay on the surface. In scientific circles, this phenomenon is also known as inverse segregation and is often referred to as the "Brazil nut effect".
The developers of the ABS® system have used these scientific findings to optimize the ABS® system according to the rules of the "Brazil nut effect".
An avalanche is not a liquid like water. It is a granular material, comprising particles and chunks of snow of various sizes, which is why an inflated airbag will not automatically keep you on top of an avalanche. What is decisive is the ratio between additional volume and lifting surface.
An avalanche has three phases: the start, the descent and halt or solidifying phase.
The streamlined ABS® TwinBags generate unparalleled dynamic lift during all phases of the avalanche, preventing you from sinking back into the snow, and during the crucial halt and solidification phase, they keep you in the most horizontal position possible. All these criteria help you stay on the surface. The survival rate of 97% is the proof.
ABS® airbags have shown how they offer the highest survival rate amongst avalanche victims. Of the 262 persons whose ABS® avalanche airbag was activated, 97% survived, 84% remained uninjured and 3% died.
Statistics without ABS
The same accidents involved people who were not equipped with an avalanche airbag. 25% of these people did not survive the avalanche. With an ABS® airbag, you are eight times safer in the event of an avalanche and have the greatest chance of survival.
ABS SYSTEM COMPONENTS
The ABS® TwinBag system is a technically advanced product that consists of several components. Here you can familiarize yourself with the individual components and learn what functions they serve.
1. ABS TwinBags
Each of the two airbags has a volume of 85 liters when inflated. They are inflated simultaneously but have separate closure and suction valves. If one of the airbags is damaged, the other one will remain inflated for a sufficient length of time. The internal pressure is about 0.1 bar.
2. The cartridge
The cartridges contain only non-hazardous, non-flammable gases found in the atmosphere. Internal pressure 300 bar (carbon cartridge 340 bar). The cartridge must only be pierced inside the puncture unit of the ABS-system. Handling the closure of the cartridge can cause an explosion. Serious risk of injury and death, even for bystanders! The cartridge is designed for temperatures of between -40 °C to +50 °C. Empty cartridges can only be refilled by ABS. Exchanges for a full cartridge can only be made with an ABS dealer. Avoid impacts, such as dropping the cartridge.
Depending on the model, the cartridges comply with the following guidelines :
Steel cartridge Europe: EC directives
Steel cartridge North America: DOC and TC certified
Carbon cartridge: EC directives
3. The piercing unit
The piercing unit, into which the cartridge is screwed, is housed in a compartment at the top of the backpack. The piercing unit consists of a needle that pierces the cartridge when the system is activated. Make absolutely sure that it stays clean and that no objects can penetrate it. Therefore, always close the cover. A screwed-in cartridge can be unscrewed from the puncture unit at any time. The cartridge will only be opened when the attached handle is pulled. We generally recommend that you always keep the cartridge screwed in.
4. The TwinBag compartments
The TwinBags are packed in two airbag compartments on each side of the backpack. They are protected during normal use of the backpack. If the ABS system is activated, the two Velcro fasteners are opened by the pressure of the inflating TwinBags and the airbags pop out of the sides.
5. The fill and outlet valve
Fill and outlet valves are located on both airbags. They suck the ambient air into the airbag automatically when the ABS system is activated. The outlet valve is located in the center of the fill and outlet unit under a red plastic cap. Air can be let out of the airbag by pressing the outlet valve.
The net cover over the fill and outlet unit prevents snow from entering the airbag while it is being inflated.
6. Handle plate with protective flap and coupler
The handle plate is normally attached to the left shoulder strap of the backpack. The coupler, to which the activation handle is attached, is located here. The coupler is covered by the protective flap to keep it clean and protect it against snow and ice. The Velcro fastener secures the activation handle when there is no danger of an avalanche.
For left-handed users, a handle plate is also available on the right shoulder strap.
7. The activation handle
The activation handle includes a pressurized capsule. The capsule is released by attaching the handle to the coupler on the strap of the backpack and by pulling the activation handle. The explosion pressure travels through the pressure tube to the piercing unit. The full cartridge is pierced at this point by the needle and the cartridge medium travels through the pressure tubes to the two airbags, where it inflates the airbags with the help of the fill and outlet unit. Filling time about 2-3 seconds.
The pressurized capsule in the activation handle can only be released once. This is why both the activation handle and cartridge must be returned and replaced by a dealer.
8. Height adjustment
The activation handle must be ideally positioned for easy accessibility. The height of the mounting on the activation handle can therefore be adjusted. The correct position of the activation handle is between the chest and shoulder. In order to adjust the height, open and unfold the Velcro fastener, attach the handle plate to the appropriate plastic grommet and attach the Velcro fastener.
9. Leg strap, shoulder strap – The ABS carrying system
The entire carrying system of the backpack is extremely important, because the ABS system will only be of any use in an emergency if it is kept on your body. The carrying system has been tested and meets the TÜV requirements for extreme operational demands. The carrying system consists of:
the shoulder strap
the chest strap
the hip strap
and a leg strap
It is very important that all of these straps be properly fastened and adapted to your body size.
10. Hip strap with handle pocket
The hip strap is equipped with a safety fastener. For maximum support and perfect fit of the hip strap. The hip strap includes a small zip compartment in which the activation handle can be stored when it is not attached.
USE IN THE EVENT OF AN AVALANCHE
What can you do if you really get caught in an avalanche? The first thing to do is to activate your ABS airbag system. The TwinBags will inflate automatically regardless of whether you are in motion, have fallen or are already caught in the masses of snow. If possible, you should always attempt to escape the avalanche by moving away from it. Information on what else you can do if no escape is possible and how to behave once the avalanche comes to a halt is provided here.
Always activate the ABS® avalanche airbag as soon as you notice an avalanche situation. It is better to activate the ABS® system too early or too often than too late or not at all.
To activate, pull the activation handle hard and fast and try to escape. The airbags are self-inflating, irrespective of whether you are skiing, falling, lying on top of the airbag or already trapped by moving snow. The position of the airbags means that you have an unobstructed view and unrestricted freedom of movement, even when the airbags are inflated. They will not hinder you during your escape or evasive action, which you should always attempt to make.
2. BEHAVIOR IN THE AVALANCHE
If you have activated the system, focus only on your fall line. The way that the airbags are attached on the sides of the pack allows you to move your arms and legs freely. Make swimming movements, push obstacles away, try to stabilize yourself and protect your head. The shape of the airbags will help to protect your head without compromising your movements and ability to see. Try to twist out of your ski bindings. Never put your hands through the pole straps and never use safety straps with your bindings! If possible, keep your mouth closed. As the avalanche comes to a halt, try to keep your upper body and arms above the snow and free yourself from the mass of snow as soon as possible.
3. AFTER THE AVALANCHE
Move to a safe place. Try to help other victims, if you are able to do so. Only deflate the airbags when you are absolutely sure that there is no longer any danger of another avalanche, and attach another cartridge and activation handle immediately if possible. If you are still in an avalanche-prone area, leave the airbags inflated.
The ABS avalanche airbag system is virtually maintenance-free. However, you should perform the following checks on a regular basis:
1. Unfold the two airbags at least once a year. We also recommend an annual test activation, ideally at the start of the season. Even on safe terrain you can perform a test activation under realistic conditions.
2. Check the release valve in the black fill and outlet unit. Press the red button several times. It should snap back to its initial position each time.
3. Inspect the condition of the backpack straps, buckles, airbag compartments and Velcro fasteners on a regular basis.
4. Make sure that the piercing unit that is screwed in the cartridge contains no dirt.
5. The activation handle should easily fit into the coupler. Occasionally, a drop of ABS oil should be applied to the coupler if removing the handle becomes difficult. A sample tube of ABS oil is included and can be ordered from ABS.
6. Always make sure that the full cartridge is screwed in tightly before using the ABS airbag system.
In an avalanche, the system can be subjected to forces that test the load limits of the material. Sometimes the damage is not visible to the naked eye. We therefore recommend sending the ABS backpack and empty cartridge to your local Service Center for inspection as a preventive measure.
Please complete and sign the questionnaire for recording avalanche accidents and send it to the competent avalanche institute in your country, directly to SLF or your ABS Service Center.
Please include the completed questionnaire for recording avalanche accidents that you can download directly from here.
Questionnaire on avalanche accidents with the ABS airbag system for the statistics of the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos
If you are not able to have your ABS system checked immediately, perform the following checks yourself:
> Visual check for abrasion
> Check for tearing of airbag fastening straps
> Check for tearing of shoulder straps, waist and chest straps and seams
> Check for tearing or deformation of all buckles (adjusting buckles on shoulder straps, waist and chest strap buckles and leg straps)
In all cases, send your ABS airbag system to your local Service Center for inspection.
Every three seasons, the manufacturer recommends a general inspection. To do so, send your ABS airbag system, including the cartridge and activation handle, to your local Service Center. The ABS customer service will charge a fee for this inspection. The inspection of all ABS system parts by the Customer Service is far more thorough than any test activation or self-check you may perform. The ABS Customer Service companies in your country can be found in the Contact section.
With the approval of the operator(s), one avalanche rescue backpack per person equipped with a pyrotechnic trigger mechanism containing not more than 200 mg net of Division 1.4S and a cylinder of compressed gas of Division 2.2 not exceeding 250ml. The backpack must be packed in such a manner that it cannot be accidentally activated. The airbags within the backpack must be fitted with pressure relief valves.