Epidemiological Trends in Search and Rescue Incidents Documented by the Alpine Club of Canada From 1970 to 2005
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OBJECTIVE: To provide a descriptive review of the epidemiology of search and rescue (SAR) incidents across Canada as documented in the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) database. METHODS: A retrospective, cross-sectional review of SAR reports collected by the ACC with incidents dating from January 1, 1970 to June 12, 2005, was analyzed. RESULTS: The ACC database contained 1088 incidents with 1377 casualties. Casualties had 944 (68.6%; 95% CI, 64.2 to 73.1) injuries or illness, and 433 (31.4%; 95% CI, 28.6 34.6) fatalities. Males accounted for 76.1% of all casualties and 82.3% of the fatalities when sex was reported. A bimodal distribution of casualties was seen, with the peaks around February and August. Hiking and mountaineering resulted in more than half of all casualties that yielded any type of morbidity, whereas mountaineering and skiing, ski mountaineering, or snowboarding accounted for almost two thirds of all fatalities. Human error and slips and falls were the major contributors to the presumptive cause of incidents. The lower limb was the most common anatomic location of traumatic injury, accounting for 41.6% (95% CI, 37.6 to 45.9) of these injuries. Hypothermia, exhaustion, frostbite, and dehydration represented the majority of all nontraumatic conditions. British Columbia and Alberta accounted for 91.6% (95% CI, 86.0 to 97.5) of the incidents in the database. CONCLUSIONS: The study serves to illustrate trends in SAR epidemiology that may be encountered by SAR personnel within British Columbia and Alberta. Furthermore, it highlights the need for additional Canadian-based studies to better understand this area of prehospital medical encounters.
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