Ice forming on lakes and ponds may look picturesque – but the dangers it poses are real.
Earlier this month, Captain Mark Mattina and firefighters Chris Spradling and Rob Nash traveled to the White Bear Rescue Training Center in Dunbar, Wisconsin for training in ice water rescue.
The center, operated by Atlas Outfitters Rescue Equipment and Training, provides hands-on training to public safety agencies for technical rescues.
Mattina said the three were trained for technician – or instructor – level during the three-day event and will provide training to the department and, in the future, to other emergency agencies.
“We were cutting holes in the ice that were 18- to 20-inches thick,” Mattina said. “We’re not going to have ice that thick locally.”
In fact, Mattina said type of ice that forms on local bodies of water could be referred to as “bad ice” – ice which is often only one inch thick.
The training is another way the department looks to be proactive – being prepared for a worst case scenario.
He noted the number of bodies of water within the area – from lake development communities, to ponds and lakes at parks and ponds – makes the training even more important.
The training consisted of both classroom instruction and rescue training practice on the ice.
Mattina said “time is of the essence” when it comes to ice rescues. Aside from the frigid water temperatures, the person in the water becomes quickly fatigued trying what he referred to as “self-rescue.”
“Shock normally sets in not long afterwards, not to mention the additional weight from the water-soaked clothing,” Mattina said. “The water temperature alone can take your breath away.”
The group participated in real-life scenarios as part of the training. Departments from Wisconsin and Illinois also took part in the training.
“We were able to spend a lot of time in the water,” he said. “It is – by far – the best way to learn.”
The training also gave the group an opportunity to test out equipment available for such rescues – from the wetsuits to the boat-type apparatus used in the rescues.
Taking that information back to share with the department – and other departments as well – is what Mattina feels can be of great benefit should such an emergency occur.
“For us, the biggest thing (about the training) was to certify some of the staff with the ability to come back to the department and train the others,” Mattina said.
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or email@example.com