New Technology Assisting Avalanche Search And Rescue Efforts

Jan 14, 2020, 8:04 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2023, 4:08 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – New technology is helping search and rescue teams locate people buried in an avalanche, or lost on a mountain, faster. 

Only three helicopter teams in the country use the RECCO detection system, and one of them is Utah’s Department of Public Safety.

The system is used to detect special chips on people who might be buried in an avalanche, lost in the mountains or forest, or wherever they are.

Bret Hutchings is a DPS pilot and flies its helicopter to help locate missing people or rescue those who are stuck.

No matter how often Hutchings and his team have a successful mission, they know their job is often to recover a body.

“It helps bring some closure to families,” he said. “We all love the job. We all feel like we’re contributing, we’re helping people.”

In the past year, he can use new technology on the helicopter to locate people faster.

It might even help save lives.

“This is pretty significant,” said Hutchings. “It’s kind of a game changer for us.”

He’s talking about the RECCO detection system, which hangs under the helicopter.

The RECCO detection system helps search and rescue crews find people buried in avalanches or lost in the wilderness.


“If we start getting more and more people with these RECCO chips, it cuts down significantly on our search times,” said Hutchings.

That’s how a woman’s body was found buried in an avalanche in Idaho last week.

A helicopter using RECCO technology picked up on the RECCO chip she was wearing.

The chips are small and many companies are starting to put them into clothing, such as Utah-based outdoors company Kuhl.

Matt Bluher, marketing director at Kuhl, explained where the chip is placed in the clothing.

“We actually just put it into a flap of a pocket right here,” he said. “It’s a passive reflector so it never runs out of battery. You never have to charge it and you never have to turn it on.”

Once a RECCO detector hovers over a reflective RECCO chip, the detector starts to beep.

It’s a way to find people just in case and Hutchings said with the technology, search and rescue teams can cover the space of a few football fields in just a couple of minutes.

“Huge populations are getting outdoors,” Bluher said. “We want to make sure people, if they are getting lost, are going to get found.”

Utah’s DPS aero team was only the second team in the country to use this helicopter device when they received it in Nov. 2018.

In the year and two months since, it’s been used several times.

“We’ve used it on three of the four fatal avalanches that we had last year, and we actually got hits with it,” Hutchings said.

The chip is not a GPS device, so it does not allow for any tracking.

A RECCO detector must be over a chip for the chip to be located.

Hutchings also said, if you have a chip, it is not a replacement for an avalanche beacon and shovel.

“It’s just another tool for us, but an important tool,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Two victims in a Hit-and-run in Sugarhouse speak to KSL News on Friday. (Emma Benson, KSL News)...

Emma Benson

Sugarhouse hit and run victims speak out

Two Sugarhouse women are speaking out after they were involved in a hit-and-run.

18 minutes ago

UDOT Traffic Camera showcasing the fatal crash in South Jordan. (KSL News)...

Alexander Campbell

South Jordan crash results in one fatality, closes I-15 on ramp

Interstate 15 is closed at 11400 South while Utah Highway Patrol investigates a fatal crash on Friday.

53 minutes ago

SLCPD officers pulling the the man off the parking garage ledge. (The Salt Lake City Police Departm...

Alex Cabrero

Body cam video shows police officers save man’s life during mental health crisis

Many people who live or work in downtown Salt Lake City often have very normal days. 

2 hours ago

A picture of the dead, Provo Police officer Joseph Shinners, that was being used in the courtroom o...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Attorneys urge jury to consider intent in trial for man accused of murdering Provo officer

The trial for the man accused of murdering Joseph Shinners began Friday. Matt Hoover's attorneys said he meant to shoot himself that fateful day, not Shinners.

2 hours ago

Leah Moses...

Annie Knox

Utah lawmakers pass ‘Om’s Law,’ focused on child safety in custody decisions

Utah lawmakers gave final passage to bill requiring judges to consider evidence of domestic violence raised in child custody cases.

2 hours ago

Layton High School (KSL TV)...

Michael Houck

Layton High School student in custody after being found with a gun on school grounds

Police arrested a student after he was found with a weapon while at Layton High School Friday morning.

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

New Technology Assisting Avalanche Search And Rescue Efforts