International mountain accident database proposed by Mountaineering Commission
19 Mar 2013
A helicopter carrying an injured climber lifts off from Everest Base Camp. At the height of the spring climbing season, there are often three or four daily flights from the mountain. (Photo: Peter McBride for OutsideOnline.com)
The UIAA Mountaineering Commission has approved a proposal to develop a standardized, international system of collecting and analysing accidents to better identify areas where safety and training can be improved, and help insurance companies better understand risk in mountain activities.
The idea for a global database managed by the Mountaineering Commission and housed on the UIAA website was approved at a recent commission meeting in Bavšica, Slovenia. It now heads to the UIAA Management Committee for final approval.
The project which will track accidents of both mountaineers and non-mountaineers is the brainchild of Professor Chiaki Aoyama (Japan) who has been working on developing an international accident reporting structure for four years.
It arose out of challenges faced by Chiaki, a member of the Mountaineering Commission, during the development of a national accidents database in Japan.
Chiaki’s problem was his inability to weigh accident characteristic details because of the lack of comparative databases from other countries. He spent almost 6 months travelling in Europe and North America to collect accident data, and although he was able to amass information from about 12 groups, he found it difficult to compare and relate what he had gathered.
One example of the challenges of standardizing reporting categories, Chiaki pointed to, was the use of terms such as the difference between someone “falling” down a slope and someone “sliding” down a slope.
“There is a clear difference between the two causes (of the accident),” said Chiaki.
Chiaki said the difficulty to find comparative data from around the world for the Japanese database inspired him to design a detailed, comprehensive and standardized international template for gathering data.
“If we can achieve the standardized mountain accident database in the world, we can weigh the characteristics of mountain accidents in each country,” said Chiaki. “The results will save mountaineers life. And it will be used as the credibility of the technique of training standard.”
He said the UIAA which was has 80 member associations in 50 countries representing about 1.3 million people is ideally suited to play a crucial role in developing a standardized scale for all mountaineering groups.
Part of the process of pushing the scheme forward, Chiaki said, would involve discussions with other bodies such as the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (IKAR – CISA) as accident data is mostly housed within rescue organizations.
Participating groups for the project include UIAA member federations, rescue teams, and associations or authority groups that have as their goal mountain safety.
The web-based questionnaire will have two forms; a “Mountain Accidents and Incidents Report Form” and an “Instruction Illustrated Form" consisting of icons to better illustrate and understand the data being sought.