International Commission for Alpine Rescue

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The International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) was founded in 1948. ICAR is incorporated as an association under Swiss law, with its seat in Kloten, Switzerland. It is an independent, worldwide organization whose mission is to provide "a platform for mountain rescue and related organizations to disseminate knowledge with the prime goal of improving mountain rescue services and their safety". ICAR currently has 85 member organizations in 34 countries worldwide. The main common language is English, with German and French being official ICAR languages too. ICAR does not pursue any commercial purposes and is not profit oriented.


The top organizational body is the ICAR Assembly of Delegates, where member organizations are represented by delegates (number of delegates depending on the type of membership). The ICAR Assembly of Delegates usually takes place in October upon the annual ICAR Convention, which is alternately organized by one of its member organizations.The ICAR Assembly of Delegates appoints members for the ICAR Executive Board (President, Vice-President, Treasury, Technical Commission Presidents and Assessors, all of them volunteers), which takes care of the daily business through the year. For administrative tasks (correspondence, web-mastering) there is an ICAR Office, staffed 12 hours weekly, located at Zürich Airport in Switzerland, financed in equal parts by ICAR and the member ARS Alpine Rettung Schweiz (Alpine rescue Switzerland), hosting it. ICAR has 4 Technical Commissions, which develop and publish the recommendations which are published on the ICAR website. Together these commissions cover all aspects of mountain rescue:

ICAR Terrestrial Rescue Commission[edit]

The ICAR Terrestrial Rescue Commission is concerned with all aspects of technical ground search and rescue techniques, particularly in mountainous environments. Terrestrial rescue is essentially a transportation issue, getting patients from a place of predicament to a place of care, and there is a broad array of terrain types and conditions to which rescue teams respond, and consequently the technical systems are varied and diverse. Our main task is providing an environment whereby the collective international knowledge, experience, and methodology can be shared. The ICAR Terrestrial Rescue Commission meets annually and has an elected president and vice-president. A key theme or topic is chosen annually whereby an exchange of information, presentations, demonstrations and experiences occurs. Where there is interest in further examination of topics, a working group made up of volunteer delegates is formed and the findings are presented to the commission. This work may lead to consensus based recommendations. The ICAR Terrestrial Rescue Commission also has overlap with the ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission where there is common interest, such as avalanche rescue techniques and systems, and a portion of the meetings are held jointly. Additionally, the ICAR Terrestrial Rescue Commission and the ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission alternately organize a practical field demonstration day prior to the annual conference, open to all commissions. Evacuation of subjects often occurs by helicopter once ground based rescuers have accessed and stabilized the subject for transport. As such, there are also common cross-over challenges between terrestrial rescue, air rescue and medical aspects. For that an ICAR process is in place, whereby the respective commissions can jointly work on these challenges.

ICAR Air Rescue Commission[edit]

The ICAR Air Rescue Commission consists of experts, pilots, HEMS crew members and hoist operators from all ICAR member organizations. The ICAR Air Rescue Commission tasks, goals and targets are the same as for ICAR: sharing our experience, learning from others and working on prevention. The commission is run by a president assisted by a vice-president. The Commission President is a member of the ICAR Executive Board. Usually the Air Rescue Commission meets once a year during the annual ICAR Convention. The ICAR Air Rescue Commission has to deal with different systems, different rules, different operations and therefore the commission is used to work on best practices more than hard rules. The Commission takes its benefits from the exchange of the members and other international entities. The knowledge and experience amongst the members of the ICAR Air Rescue Commission is huge and the commission provides expertise all over the world. The database of the commission is for sure one of the largest in the world concerning Mountain Air Rescue. The ICAR Air Rescue Commission publishes recommendations available to all via the ICAR website. The ICAR Air Rescue Commission and the EHA European Helicopter Association have worked together to obtain an alleviation for the rescuers during the EASA PCDS (Personal Carrying Device System) consultation. Thanks to the cooperation the success was confirmed in May 2016 with the withdrawal of the regulation on single PCDS.

ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission (including Sub-Commissions for Dog-Handlers and Prevention)[edit]

One of the main goals and tasks of the ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission is to provide a platform to present avalanche search and rescue systems. The exchange of experience and the discussions at our meetings help to gain new insights and to transfer the knowledge to the practice. A main task of the ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission is to issue recommendations on safety measures to minimize avalanche accidents. Securing the equipment compatibility of avalanche search devices is another focus. Furthermore, the ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission played a dominant role in the unification of the European avalanche danger scale. Currently, these efforts are extended to harmonize the European avalanche danger scale with the North American systems. The ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission also provides information on avalanche accidents. The average number of annual avalanche accident fatalities in the Alps is 106. This is calculated from a 20-year record of fatal avalanche accidents in the alpine countries. Adding the number of the fatal accidents in North America, the average is 138. Most victims released the avalanche themselves during skiing or hiking in backcountry terrain. However, a significant number of people died while they were skiing or snowboarding off-piste or snowmobiling in the backcountry. For the latter groups, the annual numbers of fatal accidents are slightly increasing. There are two technical sub-commissions within the ICAR Avalanche Rescue Commission: Dog-Handlers and Prevention.

ICAR Alpine Emergency Medicine Commission (ICAR-MEDCOM)[edit]

The International Commission for Mountain Emergency Medicine (ICAR MEDCOM) founded in 1948 is a sub-commission of the International Commission for Alpine Rescue. More than 60 emergency physicians and paramedics, experienced in pre-hospital treatment of injuries and illnesses in the mountains are members of this commission. The main goal is improving medical treatment and outcome of casualties in the mountains by establishing recommendations and guidelines dealing with scientific and practical aspects of mountain rescue and emergency treatment of casualties in mountainous terrain. Recommendations of this commission are published in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and referenced to "International Commission for Mountain Emergency Medicine (ICAR MEDCOM)". All papers are intended for emergency physicians, paramedics, first responders and authorities responsible in organizing rescue operation in the mountains. Moreover, joint recommendations for mountaineers are worked out in collaboration with the Medical Commission of UIAA (The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation), the ISMM (International Society for Mountain Medicine) and the WMS (Wilderness Medical Society). Together with these organizations ICAR MEDCOM conducts the World Congress in Mountain and Emergency Medicine, the largest international congress in this field. The commission is also involved in education and training of mountain rescuers and physicians in countries with efforts of establishing a system of local rescue groups and a demand of knowledge and training. Up to now, we supported courses in Argentina (2005) and Nepal (2009) with human and financial resources. In cooperation with UIAA MEDCOM and ISMM (International Society for Mountain Medicine) the ICAR Alpine Emergency Medicine Commission has established the "Diploma for Mountain Medicine" and the "Diploma for Mountain Emergency Medicine" in order to standardize postgraduate medical training for physicians interested and/or involved in mountain medicine and rescue medicine in mountainous areas. The commission meets twice a year at the spring meeting (on invitation of our members) and at the ICAR Assembly of Delegates where we present our work to the other commissions. Additionally, our members are invited to many national and international congresses to give lectures and present our scientific work. There is also a close cooperation with the “Institute for Mountain Emergency Medicine” at the European Academy (EURAC) in Bolzano, Italy and other research facilities and universities. Many members are in leading or consulting roles in their national organizations.

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