Amherst Fire Practices Ice Rescue

On February 11, members of Amherst Fire District, along with members from Stockton, Plover, and Hull Fire Departments conducted “on-ice” rescue training at Glacier Hollow YMCA Camp on Lake Elaine. The training is designed to simulate rescuing someone who has gone through the ice.

Rescue firefighters are taught to use a variety of tactics to assist, and ultimately rescue, people who have gone through the ice, including:

  • Using tools commonly carried on fire, rescue, and EMS vehicles to “reach” the victim to either stabilize the victim in place or pull him/her out of the water.
  • Using throw bags of rope and rescue discs to “throw” a rope out to the victim that can be used to stabilize the person in place or pull him/her out of the water.
  • Using a boat or canoe to “row” out to the victim.
  • Using our exposure suits (called “Ice Rescue” suits) to go out onto the ice and conduct the rescue in person.

The tactics can be used singularly or in combination. The exact tactic(s) used will depend on the situation. Rescue firefighters are taught all of the individual tactics and skills, and how to possibly combine them on an actual scene.

Keeping yourself safe on the ice requires some actions on your part. First and foremost, know the local ice conditions and hazards before venturing out onto the ice. Next, make sure you are dressed in adequate clothing and do not go alone. Should you go through the ice:

  • Catch your breath and remain calm. The cold water will literally “take your breath away.”
  • Call for help right away.
  • Do not remove your clothing … it is keeping you afloat and warm.
  • Place your arms and hands on the ice in the direction you came from. If you have ice picks or any kind of a sharp tool, use it to get a better grip on the good ice.
  • Kick with your feet near the surface as you try to pull yourself up onto the good ice. Pause part way out to allow the water to drain from your body (to lighten yourself).
  • Get warm.

If you are unable to pull yourself completely out of the water, pull and kick to get yourself as far out of the water as possible before your strength gives out. In cold water, you may have only a matter of minutes before this happens. The idea is the less of your body you have in the cold water, the better. Also, it makes it less likely that you will slip into the water, making rescuing you easier.

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