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Ice Rescue: Getting Out Alive

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) – With all of the cold weather we’ve been having, many look forward to popular winter time activities like skating on a pond or ice fishing, but there is always the chance something can go seriously wrong.

Firefighters warn that a lake or pond may look peaceful on the surface, but appearance can be deceiving.

“Four inches is the least amount you want to go on,” says Joseph Conant, Commissioner of the Springfield Fire Department.

And in conditions like this, the difference between life and death can be determined in seconds.

“Ten minutes in freezing cold water like this is about the maximum,” Conant adds.

We  joined the Springfield Fire Department in their rescue training to learn exactly how to save a life from the frigid cold water.

To stage a rescue, firefighters first cut a hole in the ice with a chain saw and all dressed in wet suit attire.  With a waterproof suit, it’s possible to stay afloat, but a real victim will get pulled under quickly.

When that happens, what should you do?

To stay alive, do not lose the hole in the ice.  Find the direction from which you came, this ice has already been able to hold your weight.

Rescuers all agree.  “Our biggest fear is if you go under because then, we have to search for you.”

And another tip, don’t have anyone else come onto the ice, they can fall in too.  Have bystanders call professionals immediately. +

Remain calm, tread water, and try not to panic.

“So as he comes with the sled, he is going to pull you right in to the middle there and put the strap around you,” crews explain as they move forward on the ice.

Firefighters strap ABC40’s Brittany Decker in, pull her up onto the sled, and in just over two minutes, she is back to land safely.

After being rescued it was Brittany’s turn be on the other side and perform a rescue herself.  First, the same sled method – grabbing the victim, strapping him in and pulling up.

“Not as easy as it seems!” Brittany says.

This is nothing compared to what it would really be like with full body weight of a person submerged, wearing saturated winter clothing.

And finally an in-water rescue, connecting the life rope around the person under water without being able to see.  Luckily, this time, firefighters patched the hole up and called it a successful drill— but this can be reality.

“When we have those warm spells, then it gets cold and warm again and people don’t realize the ice gets thinner and thinner,” says Conant.

The Parks Department is the judge of when ice is safe enough to pass.  If you go out, be prepared, or best bet: stay off completely.

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