An Update from the Avalanche Center
Online in html: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/
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This is a brief update on what is new and upcoming on the internet Avalanche Center, http://www.avalanche-center.org/
Welcome to the first Avalanche Center update for the 2003-2004 season! While most people stopped thinking about snow and avalanches over the summer those of us behind the scenes at the CSAC have continued to pursue a number of things to help keep this project at the forefront of avalanche awareness and information dissemination.
While most of the information below focuses on website improvements we spent a lot of the summer preparing a generic proposal to seek small grants for operating funds from foundations. This was finally completed and sent out to about 20 potential sources of support. So far we have received three responses declining support, but there are over 17 left to go. Special thanks go out to Chase-Brooke (www.chasebrooke.com) and especially Rick Padden for helping guide us through the grant process as part of their free non-profit assistance program which we qualified for. And also to board member Phil Caterino who has extensive experience in the non-profit sector and helped with advice and reviews. Regardless of the outcome of this initial effort we now have materials which can form the basis for future fundraising efforts, so this has been a big step forward.
Avalanche safety is a hard thing to fund - the outdoor industry has shown very limited interest, foundations often prefer to support youth programs or social services (especially in the current economic climate), and government agencies involved in recreational avalanche safety in the US are unfunded or underfunded and left to fundraise for themselves. Given that most avalanche fatalities today are recreationalists who purchase skis, snowboards, snowmobiles, etc and who go into the backcountry by choice it is hard to make a case that our safety is the responsibility of anyone other than ourselves. Individual contributions remain one of our most important source of support.
Along with the proposal writing we also spent some time on organizational development. We have reassembled a new Board of Directors and most of a new set of Officers. A new part-time student office manager started working recently. The entire Organizational Info (or About Us) section of the website has been reviewed, brought up to date and revamped. There is information there about our board, officers and staff and this will be expanded as we continue to regroup.
Avalanche Store - Logo Items on Sale!
We ran out of clearance items early in the summer, with the exception of books. Usually in the fall we just take items off sale and use them as the start for this seasons inventory, but the few book titles which we have plenty of will be left on sale for a little while yet.
CSAC shirts and decals are on sale for our cost or close to it. Your purchase of products with the very cool skiing skeleton logo now will help our early season cash flow as well as promote this resource as winter approaches. How long these items will be on sale will depend on the volume of orders and the size of the inventory and the sale may end at any time without advance notice, so buy soon!
We have also verified products and prices for the coming season. Most existing products will still be available and only a few prices were adjusted. There are some new products out and we will be adding these to the web store this fall. Remember that we can sell any items in any of the product lines we carry - if you would like a new item which has not yet been posted or a non-avalanche item such as a pack please inquire. (Many of the companies whose avalanche gear we carry also make other items, but we only post and directly promote avalanche safety gear. However, the other items can be special ordered on request.)
Incidents Section Improvements
Aside from ongoing link checking and page maintenance the most recent improvements have involved our search features. By using new php scripting (with a lot of trial an error) we have been able to significantly improve our incident searching. Instead of choosing a month and year searches are now based on the selection of a date range, along with state/country and activity. We plan to add a key to allow searches for incidents with a number of fatalities within a specified range as well. The initial search results are now automatically ordered by date, but they can be reordered by clicking on the appropriate column heading. The results page also indicates how many records were found in the search.
We are still reserving full search capabilities for contributors, but the public search page incorporates these new developments and now lists the first 10 results rather than 5. (When sorting the results all results found are included so the 10 incidents listed may not be the same.) The full version in the contributors section returns all records found and also gives the total number of fatalities.
Our incidents database now contains the past three seasons with a total of well over 400 accident reports. In addition to continuing to add reports during the coming year we are working on going back further as well and hope to have our 1999-2000 reports be included in searches later this fall.
Education Section - Course Listings
In our Education Section we have been adding course listings as they come in. Several guide services have submitted their courses and there is already a good selection for Colorado and California with a few entries for other states as well.
We are continuing to make our course listing searchable and have applied some of the same improvements developed for incident searching. Courses can now be search for a given date range as well as by state and level. Like incident results these are returned ordered by date but can then be resorted by other parameters (such as location or cost) by clicking the appropriate column heading.
New additions to our educational content are being considered, some of which may be possible with a bit more php script work. Online lessons or tutorials are something that has been considered for many years now and we would like to implement some things along those lines if we can. However, doing this right takes a great deal of planning, page design, and scripting. The reason we have not done this so far is that doing it right would take more resources than we have, and if we can't do it right we'd rather not present a poor effort. Maybe this will be the year to introduce something like this, we'll see.
News and Updates Section - NEW!
There is a new section this year for updates and news stories. The navigation bar icon for this is a rotating snowflake, which is now on the bar at the bottom of all the other main section pages. This section will contain information on what is new on the site as well as news stories.
As we search around for incident information we are finding more news stories related in some way to avalanches but not to accidents. This section is an effort to start posting that information, as well as relevant press releases for things like events and equipment, in one place.
We have always had a "What's New" page but it has rarely been updated. This season there should be some news posted there periodically. This will be general overview information, not page-level details. There is also a script which will list every page updated in the past 7 days which can be found in this section. This is a good way to see exactly what has been changed or added, although it does not distinguish between formatting updates and content changes. (One of these days we will change it to let viewers select the number of days to check, rather than using only 7 as it does now.)
How You Can Help - Current Needs
There are a number of specific tasks, many of them small, which we could use help with. Please contact us if you can help with any of the following tasks:
Verify course providers - In our Education Section course listings each state has a list of providers above the specific courses. These have not been verified in a long time. It would be nice if somebody in each of these states could verify the contact information with the providers so that we can keep it up to date, and also to see if there are additional providers or contacts which should be listed. For states or countries not listed we will be glad to begin a page if somebody wants to submit information for it.
Auction - The annual online fundraising auction will take place again this year in early December. (More on this in future updates!) For the next two months we will be canvassing the outdoor industry for donated goods to auction off. Many of you reading this update have the potential to help us find items to auction. If you work in the outdoor industry, retailing, or other related fields please consider talking to the appropriate people about donating one or more items. Or suggest it to your local retailer. We commonly receive items which are brand new but difficult to retail because they are last years model. As a 501c3 organization items contributed to us should be tax deductible.
Contributions and Matching - Making a contribution to help support our work helps us a great deal, but many people could enhance that benefit greatly by obtaining matching funds from their employer. Many companies have such programs, although in the current economic climate they may be less common than in the past. For the past four seasons we have received matching contributions, but typically only two or three per season. Companies participating in the past include Patagonia, Safeco, Microsoft, and Hewlitt-Packard.