Worldwide mountaineering accidents database project gets boost from the Petzl Foundation

Mountaineering, Training

The development of a proposed worldwide accidents database run by the Mountaineering Commission has been given a boost from the Petzl Foundation’s board of directors who have agreed to support the project in principal.

The Foundation’s support is contingent on the ability of the Mountaineering Commission, which has been working on developing such a database to cooperate with two French University professors, also supported by the Petzl Foundation, who have been working on a similar project.

To facilitate collaboration, commission member Professor Chiaki Aoyama (Japan), who is behind the UIAA initiative with Mountaineering Commission president Pierre Humblet (Belgium),  met with Professors Bastien Soule and Brice Lefevre at a commission meeting in Brussels in November. The foundation provided an interpreter.

Such a global database, if developed, could help insurance companies better understand risk in mountain activities.

Chiaki said the UIAA which has member associations across the world representing millions of mountaineers is ideally suited to play a crucial role in developing a standardized accident reporting scale for all mountaineering groups.

The project is the brainchild of Chiaki, who has been working on developing an international accident reporting structure for four years and Pierre Humblet who is an insurance specialist lawyer.  It arose out of discussions between the two about the challenges faced by Chiaki during the development of a national accidents database in Japan when they met at a UIAA General Assembly in Matsumoto, Japan.

Chiaki’s problem was his inability to weigh accident characteristic details because of the lack of comparative databases from other countries. He spent almost 6 months travelling in Europe and North America to collect accident data, and although he was able to amass information from about 12 groups, he found it difficult to compare and relate what he had gathered.

Chiaki said the difficulty to find comparative data from around the world for the Japanese database inspired him to design a detailed, comprehensive and standardized international web-based template for gathering data in both a written and an icons model.

“If we can achieve the standardized mountain accident database in the world, we can weigh the characteristics of mountain accidents in each country,” said Chiaki. “The results will save mountaineers life. And it will be used as the credibility of the technique of training standard.”

Among the issues discussed between the experts at the Brussels meeting was the length and detail of the questionnaire and the best way to gather information which could assess the rate of accidents and to identify the chain of events leading to an accident.

Humblet said mountaineering isn’t as dangerous a sport as the public imagines it to be, and that statistics recently gathered was able to demonstrate this point.

“With effective statistics we could reduce the level of insurance premiums,” said Humblet.

The French professors already have agreements with a number of associations in France to gather statistics, but stated that information can be sparse, incomplete, and inconsistent in detail and often unavailable.

Meanwhile Chiaki has also been working to gather data outside Japan and in touch with groups in Europe and North America.

The next step would be for Mountaineering Commission to contact two or three UIAA member federations to test his web-based question forms by the spring 2014. The Mountaineering Commission’s Legal Expert Working Group is also in the process of drafting a contract to facilitate such information gathering. The draft agreement is expected to be finalized in the next few months.

Participants: Pierre Humblet, President – Mountaineering Commission (CMBEL), Steve Long, Chair (TSP/ BMC), Mike Galbraith, (ACC), Patrick Lamarque, (TSP/ FFCAM), Jordi Guell Magrina, (TSP/ FEEC), Chiaki Aoyama, (MountCom / JMA), Christian Frischknecht, (TSP/SAC), Sergey Vedenin, (MountCom /RMF), Lazar Popara (PSS) Jiri Vogel (CzMA) and Seyran Sucu (TDF).

Invitees: Philippe Descamps, Petzl Foundation, Bastien Soule, Lyon University and Brice Lefèvre, Lyon University.