First responders do ice-water rescue training

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ST. LOUIS, MO(KTVI) - First responders with the West County EMS & Fire Protection District jumped into an icy pond to rescue FOX2 / News 11’s Kim Hudson.  It was all part of annual ice-water rescue training.

“One of the more critical skills is keeping the person that’s fallen through the ice calm,” said West County Deputy Fire Chief Tim Dorsey.

Firefighters started the workweek in a frozen pond in Queeny Park.  The training was already planned when an Oklahoma boy died in a frozen pond on December 7, 2013.

“Usually a couple times of the year in the metro area, somebody will fall through the ice,” Dorsey said.  “A pet will fall through the ice and someone will go follow the pet trying to rescue the pet and the pet will fall through the ice as well.”

I wanted to see what it was like to be a victim—sort of.   I had a water-tight suit on, and rescuers waiting on the bank.  But after I got into the hole firefighters dug in the middle of the pond, my legs instantly floated to the surface in front of me.  With my arms on the ice and my legs just below, I was folded in half and pinned to the ice.  I could not grip anything with my waterproof gloves.

“If you had regular winter gloves on,” Dorsey explained.  “A good thing and a bad thing.  The good thing is if you are frozen to the top of the ice, you’re not going to slip in the hole.”

Firefighters on the bank pulled me across the jagged ice.  Without the dry suit and helmet, I would have cut myself.  Still, I was safe.  But, the firefighters trained because rescues like this are anything but safe.

“If it’s warm outside,” Dorsey explained.  “The ice is going to break, and the firefighters might break through ice the entire way out to rescue the victim.”

I even practiced a self-rescue with what is called an ice awl.  The fire crew cheered me on, while I stabbed the ice with a retractable metal ice pick and pulled myself out of the hole.

I was exhausted.  But, I know I felt better than if I was a small child, freezing, paralyzed and desperately hoping for help after playing on an icy pond.

Dorsey suggested this script for parents.

“You don’t know it’s safe.  You might think it is.  But, it’s just not safe.  You just have to invariably tell them that every year to just don’t play on the ice.”

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