I'm worried about some of the avalanche questions that have popped up today. There have been some good general answers, but I'm nervous that someone might read an answer, and somehow feel prepared to go out into avalanche terrain with just that knowledge.

Specifically, I don't think anyone can learn how to probe and beacon search an avalanche without having taken a class or spent days practicing in the snow.

I'm sure there are other types of questions that will be similar such as "how do I set an anchor while rock climbing" <-- this is a day of class with a certified instructor, not a 1 page answer on a stack exchange site.

Edit: I guess I'm particularly worried by complete novices asking this type of question. If an experienced mountaineer is asking for ways to reduce weight by discarding safety gear, I would say that's a reasonable thing to do. If a novice is doing the same, it would be very unreasonable. Does that make sense?

  • not sure about your edit - safety gear is safety gear... if an 'experienced' mountaineer is shedding safety gear, then they either had the wrong gear or they have the wrong experience...
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 23:27
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    Often you can accept additional risk in one area to decrease it in another, i.e. less weight lets you go faster which decreases time spent in avalanche areas.
    – Ryley
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 23:34
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    I would like to recommend some sort of template header which can be applied to questions like those you are concerned about. I have answered two of these today, and specifically tried to make sure that the reader understood that the content of the answer need to be taken seriously, but was no way a substitute for good in-person training by a professional. Good thinking ahead, not many SO topics deal with things which can kill you. We may also want to enlist industry expert organizations in the moderation of these questions and answers. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 0:14
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    There are many questions where the right answer is "take a class".
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 19:50
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    I would say not to be afraid of recommending exactly what you wanted to recommend with avalanche safety: take a class, get practice, go with somebody who has experience in avalanche safety. If that is your opinion, and you've had experience, then say so. Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 23:04
  • Related from Travel.SE: travel.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6790/… Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 19:18

4 Answers 4


Is there a way we can mark answers as 'safety' and put a big bold disclaimer on them? Something along the lines of (probably needs some work):

This question has health and safety implications and while the answers provided may be helpful, they are not necessarily to be treated as authoritative and complete. Please ensure that you are prepared for the activities you are undertaking, and that you are able to deal with any issues and events that may occur while enjoying the great outdoors.

I've seen questions on SE that have a similar message for questions that don't typically fit the Q&A format have a message - so why not other messages for other types of questions?

I think there needs to be a mechanism to also vote answers specifically as unsafe and have them removed.

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    The safety thing could fit in with just regular "flag for moderator attention" (once we have moderators). I kinda like the disclaimer idea though!
    – Ryley
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 23:21
  • There needs to be some sort of standard way to label those questions as dealing with safety or life and death as you mentioned. Absolutely supported. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 0:16

Personally I think the best thing to do would be to take a number of approaches.

I feel a special "safety" tag would be a great idea because it would serve as a physical alert to people looking at such questions that the answers aren't necessarily correct. I also think that people answering questions with such a tag should be given a prompt explaining the importance of accurate information in the question that they're answering - and perhaps bar low-rep users from answering such questions. As already said a separate option for marking a question as dangerous would also be no bad thing, though the existing downvoting / flagging mechanisms may be enough in this regard.

What I don't think should happen is an outright ban of these types of questions - people can use them as a stepping stone to look up further opinions on the topic, it can be used for someone to clarify a safety issue they're not 100% sure on, and some people (like myself in terms of the avalanche question) enjoy the answers purely for interest.


It's everyones responsibility to tell the danger that comes with the q/a. If a q/a is that dangerous and doesn't add anything, it should be flagged and by that removed.

When you give an answer you do so to the question, not the OP. Answerers should state possible injuries and such.

When you see a dangerous answer posted, add at least comment why it is dangerous. It's the responsibility of that answerer to delete it, edit it or leave it with that comment.

When I watch boats, I see miles away the mistake they are going to make. That's there responsibility. When I see it when they are in the harbour, would I tell them? Should I tell then? Of course but what if I told them? Sometimes they would like it and other times they're insulted.

People will drive too fast too at places they really shouldn't and you can't do anything about that, unfortunatly.

But a red or stating if one answer wears this tag, it goes for all answers to that question. That way experts can add a safety warning easy. The tag should be written out in full at the FAQ too.


I think this should be handled, at least for the time being, the same way as the legality question I asked. Put a disclaimer in the tag wiki for now, until we see whether SE and the devs can/will implement anything for us.

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