International mountain rescue signals are still the same today as they were in the past, and often the only means possible in the immensity of the mountains is sending an visual or acoustic signal 6 times per minute, at regular intervals, i.e. every 10 seconds. Pause for a minute and repeat the same signal until you receive a response. This is done three times in a minute, every 20 seconds, in a visual or audible way.

By acoustic signals, we mean shouting or whistling or any other perceptible noises; by visual signals we mean waving handkerchiefs, items of clothing or mirror signals; at night you can use a torch or, if possible, a fire (obviously with caution, especially if you are in a wooded area or a wooden shelter).

The ever more frequent use of helicopters by Mountain Rescue has rendered new signaling methods necessary. Coloroful sleeping bags or anoraks spread out on the ground, smoke signals or marks in the snow can aid location from above. The SOS rescue sign can be made with letters of about 2m long, using contrasting stones placed on the ground, or footprints in the snow. In order to be seen from above, i.e. by helicopter, you need to make the following signals with your arms or with lights at night:

mountain rescue signals

When giving the helicopter instructions to land, keep the following in mind: with arms outspread, remain still at the edge of the landing place; where possible the area surrounding the landing place should be clear of obstacles up to a space of 20x20 meters.

SPECIAL NOTE! Don’t move away until the rotor blades have stopped: you are an important fixing point for the pilot. Any items of clothing laid on the floor to help the pilot should be held down with stones to protect against the strong airflow given off by the helicopter’s blades!

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  • Stay calm and do not act impulsively, try to evaluate the particular situation
  • Evaluate the general situation (environment) and the specific situation (the accident). Try to identify actual and possible dangers.
  • Immediately adopt measures to avoid and prevent further risks.
  • Request help by immediately calling 140 in Austria, or 118 in Italy. The European freephone emergency number is 112, which puts you through directly to the nearest police headquarters.

What to say when you call 140 in Austria and 118 in Italy

  • Supply precise information about the injured person/s (name, surname, residence) and the telephone number from which you are calling, if possible.
  • Give details on the location of the accident or visual references that can help identify the spot easily, such as: mountain group, side, path, via ferrata, valley, channel, ledge, rest, crest, gully, etc... Give a brief summary of the accident stating the time at which it happened.
  • Specify the number of injured and their condition.
  • Describe the weather conditions, especially visibility. Highlight any obstacles in the area with particular reference to power lines and cables, chair-lifts and ski-lifts and any other overhanging cables that could get in the way.
  • Give any other information that could aid the operation (peo- ple present, particular obstacles or difficulties etc.)
  • Explain precisely how to reach the place where the accident happened, or where the injured person is.
  • Indicate the presence of other people on the spot who witnes- sed the accident, and in particular, if they are able to help.
  • Search interventions for missing or lost persons
  • Specify date and time of departure.
  • Describe the method of transport used to reach the spot (if car, specify number plate, model, colour, appearance, characteristics etc.). Indicate destination and chosen route and/or probable or possible fixed objectives (hill walking, ferrata, climbing etc.). Give the number of walking or climbing companions and their hill-walking or mountaineering abilities and experience. Describe clothing (paying particular attention to colour) and materials and food supplies carried.
  • Inform of any psychological, physical, family or social problems.
  • Communicate information already given to other bodies and/ or organisations.
  • Supply any other useful information regarding the subject(s), location and general environmental conditions.

Interventions in case of avalanche

  • As for previous points 1 and 2.
  • Give the exact or presumed number of people swept away and the exact or presumed number of people buried.
  • Specify the brand and model of apparatus used for searching the persons swept away by the avalanche.
  • Identify the presence of any witnesses able to give an exact account of what happened:
  • If a visual-auditory- apparatus search has been carried out:
  • Provide a brief description of the avalanche (size and characteristics) and the exact point where the people were swept away
  • and/or disappeared (right, left, above, below etc.);
  • objects already extracted and their position, as for previous
  • point above.

other information and particulars that can help the intervention.

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Hiking in the Mountains of Italy can be very tiring at times and many times you are above 2000 meters, experience, good equipment, sure footing, absence of vertigo and good physical condition are indispensable to ensure safety.

Often dangers are undervalued in the mountains: a rapid change in weather, an unexpected storm, a premature snowfall, an icy patch of ground, and fast-moving rivers all can turn a pleasant, light-hearted trip into a ordeal, even on well-marked stretches of path. Good self control is perhaps one of your most valuable skill sets.

A fundamental condition for trekking along the High Altitude Trail paths is good weather! Therefore you should find out weather conditions first from the available sources. If, despite all the above precautions and excellent equipment, an accident nevertheless happens (a slip, twist, fracture, injury from falling rocks, lightning, illness, vertigo etc.), try not to panic (difficult though this is) and follow the recommended indications where possible.


The CNSAS (National Speleological Mountain Rescue Organization, a special section of the CAI, Italian Alpine Club, whose emergency telephone number is 118, active 24 hours) and the Austrian Mountain Rescue normally operate in so-called hostile environments and in all inaccessible areas of the province. This does not only mean, areas such as, cliff faces or vie ferrate (equipped paths), but also above all snowfields and glaciers, ice falls, avalanches, cable cars, ski slopes, caves, ravines, gorges and gullies, rivers and all other types of environment not necessarily at high altitude (hills, woods, etc.), that due to access or movement problems, or in special weather conditions, require the intervention of qualified personnel that have expertise in all areas of mountaineering and speleology techniques and rescue.

Keep in mind that the refuges located along the mountain trails are equipped with public telephones (except the fixed bivouacs); in addition, all refuge managers are trained to help send correct and quick requests to Mountain Rescue.


Before you set out on our trek in the Mountains of Italy release that there are a few general rules everyone is expected to follow.  It is always wise to review these viewpoints, not only to keep yourself safe but to keep other excursionist safe.

  • Never underestimate the dangers and risks associated with any type of activity connected to the mountains and to hostile environments in general (mountaineering, speleology, skiing, mountain biking, hunting, mushroom picking, delta plane flying and parachuting etc.); the rapid changes in weather, the difficulty of the route, walking time, etc.
  • Good mental-physical condition, adequate preparation and training for the task to be undertaken are essential.
  • Avoid attempting routes that are beyond your technical ability and physical and mental preparation.
  • Never walk alone, whenever possible be accompanied and/or advised by qualified individuals or organisations
  • Obtain adequate information about the route’s particular features and difficulty as well as the area in general. Study all necessary information in advance regarding the destination or route chosen, using the appropriate guides and maps.
  • Always leave extremely precise information about where you are going and which route you intend to take, using visitors books in huts and bivouacs when appropriate.
  • Find out the weather conditions in advance, especially the local forecast.
  • Bring adequate footwear and clothing: avoid wearing training shoes and shoes with smooth soles.
  • Bring a head torch. Do not forget light, easily digested food and water with perhaps added saline integrators.
  • Bring a small first aid kit.