Hans Kluge, WHO Europe director, says that new Covid-19 cases are finally starting to decline as lockdowns curb infections. The statement came from a recent BBC article and is great news.

But he also added “However, if mask use reached 95%, lockdowns would not be needed.”

While the effectiveness of masks has been confirmed in the last few months, it is striking how we’re being reminded, yet again, that it is us, the people, who trigger the propagation of the virus… Almost hidden amongst all the talk about what the government should or shouldn’t be doing, is the fact that the solution is in our own hands. We can prevent lockdowns by applying simple risk reduction measures.

Kluge’s statement reminded me of the unseen, but high consequence, nature of the risk of both Covid-19 and avalanche danger. Over 90% of avalanche victims trigger the avalanche themselves (or someone skiing above them does). Therefore, we can prevent the accident from happening. “We’ve met the enemy, and the enemy is us” says internationally renowned avalanche expert, Bruce Tremper.

The unseen nature of the ever lurking danger of both phenomena, combined with their lack of direct feedback, even in response to high risk behaviour, make for some interesting comparisons. I outlined these in my article ACCIDENT REDUCTION IN THE COVID ERA ‘The biggest error would be to believe that we don’t make errors’.

Following these parallels outlined in the above article, I promised to suggest Covid-19 solutions similar to avalanche risk reduction solutions.

I haven’t done so until now because the whole thing seemed to balloon out of everyone’s grasp. But, as is often the case, the solution has been evident, indeed simple: a simple framework – way simpler than risk reduction in avalanche terrain. It’s a solution based on fact and evidence that, if applied, will render lockdowns obsolete.

Hands, Face, Space

The government of a democracy should not, in theory, have to do much more than provide this type of simple advice to its people.

However, if people don’t apply this advice, even when the result may be death and possible destruction of the healthcare system, the government will feel a need to step in and protect its people from these potential deadly outcomes. By so doing, they’re actually doing what democratically-elected governments don’t (or at least, shouldn’t) do well: control the population. Thank goodness our governments aren’t doing as well as, say, China!

Which brings us back to the current state of controls on our freedom. A comparison with avalanche danger was outlined in an article in Powder Magazine a few years ago entitled From Freedom to Anarchy. The idea is summed up in this photo of a person triggering an avalanche on top of two other skiers below.

you might want to check to see if you are putting yourself or anyone else in danger. PHOTO: Graham Robertson
…you might want to check to see if you are putting yourself or anyone else in danger. PHOTO: Graham Robertson

The article quotes Drew Hardesty, an avalanche forecaster in Utah. Hardesty simply states, “With freedom comes responsibility. Unless skiers come up with a social contract to govern themselves, as is the case in nearly every other aspect of our lives, from how we cross the street to how we drive … they run the risk of someone else doing it for them”.

As the caption under the photo states, “you might want to check to see if you are putting yourself or anyone else in danger”. With the current Covid situation, I’d add that if we don’t look out for our own safety and that of others, we also risk putting our freedom in danger…. It’s up to us”.

Safety is Freedom.

There’s a long list of evidence that shows how applying simple frameworks, checklists and memory aids reduce risk in ‘high consequence, low feedback’ risk contexts prevalent in: aviation, military, finance, health care, avalanche terrain etc.

See our HAT quick reference ‘Safety is Freedom Framework’ for accident reduction in avalanche terrain. The Framework is aimed at all levels of off-piste and touring: for beginners: a point of departure; for experts: a guide for further learning; for pros: it’s a great framework for client training and quick memory aid.

The Framework is best if accompanied by training such as HAT events and on-snow courses, but it’s also a useful companion for all training as it focuses on the basic key points that all avalanche training courses address – it helps you to keep focused on the essential accident reduction points.

For more information on upcoming HAT events (including the *ORTOVOX Off-piste awareness Tour) : webinars, online talks and other useful announcements, see our HAT Facebook page.