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I thought some of you might be interested in seeing some photos taken during ice rescue training Saturday. It wasn't as cold and miserable as it seems ... well, it wasn't for me -- I was at Jillian's show choir competition at the time.

It was a cold, snowy, windy Saturday morning ... so the members of the Albion Fire Department went outside.

Their aim was training with the AFD's ice rescue equipment, to prepare themselves for cold weather emergencies like the one that recently led to the death of two men at Sylvan Lake, near Rome City. The only way to prepare for ice rescue is to go out on the ice, so department members picked a frigid February Day to practice their skills at Sand Lake, in Chain O' Lakes State Park. The fact that a snowstorm picked that morning to blow through made it that much more realistic.

While firefighters in waterproof suits played victim in the water, rescuers in their own protective gear crawled across the ice, tethered by rope to a team of backup personnel on shore. Despite spreading their weight out, one still went through the ice himself before they were able to reach and rescue their target.

Later, firefighters used their "banana boat" -- an odd looking inflatable craft designed to reach and retrieve people who fall through. Rescuers can walk on the ice with it, and when they reach open water turn it into a stable platform from which to pluck a victim out of the water.

AFD members are planning to get more cold weather rescue gear and continue to hone their skills, in an operation that could be needed at any moment throughout the winter.

Spreading your weight out on the ice doesn't always help: the rescuer on the left has just fallen through as they approach their victim. It looks cold, but the suits are well insulated and sealed.
ice crawl

The shore crew controls rope that can be used to haul the victim in -- or the rescuers, if they get into trouble.
shore crew

Rookie Ashley Gray -- who like me is a dispatcher for the Sheriff's Department -- prepares to put a rescue harness on firefighter Marc Leatherman, whose full time job is as a state trooper.
ice rescue 2

Former Chief Gregg Gorsuch gets back into grunt mode, pushing harnessed "victim" and Assistant Chief Aaron Knight onto the ice. Aaron is a Sheriff's Department deputy; Gregg is a farmer.
ice rescue

The banana boat is an amazing thing. Here the firefighters use it as a life raft as they walk on the ice toward their victim -- if the ice is thin they can slide it, spreading their weight around, and if they break through it becomes a raft.
ice rescue boat

Once on open water, the rescuers paddle the banana boat to their victim. The opening at the front goes right over the victim, and then they can secure him and haul him to land.
ice rescue boat 2


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 25th, 2009 09:29 am (UTC)
Nods. Our local Sheriff's Department has these training sessions all Winter at Lake St. Clair because they rescue ice fisherman, snowmobilers, etc. who fall in in the frozen Lake.

One of the local news reporters tried it out and she said it was the most frightening, chilling thing she'd ever done.
Feb. 25th, 2009 11:27 am (UTC)
Our problems are pretty minor, compared to theirs! We have a whole lot of lakes around here, but nothing nearly that size. We do have people go through, though -- it was snowmobilers who went through at Sylvan Lake, and two of them later died of hypothermia.

Still more reason for me to hate winter.
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
Bless 'em. But my God that looks cold. I keep forgetting just how snowy it still is up there right now.
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
It got up to 50 today! Very exciting, if temporary. The ice rescue equipment is pretty well insulated, but I've discovered over the years that our firefighting protective clothing doesn't protect at all well against the cold.
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
"I was at Jillian's show choir competition at the time."

You're clearly smarter than I figured. I shall watch you with increased suspicion!
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
It was a darn shame, leaving the frigid, ice covered water to sit in a heated auditorium watching teenage girls dance.
Feb. 26th, 2009 08:29 am (UTC)
Not only smarter but more perverted.

Mar. 1st, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
I learned from the best -- Keith. :-)
Mar. 1st, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. That looks super cold. I'm glad they're getting the training that they need, though.
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
We usually try to do our outside training in decent weather, but the only way to train for ice rescue is when there's ice!
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
This looks like something my uncle would have to do, though he's a member of the Illinois SWAT team (now they go by "tactical response team" or something similar, no more SWAT).
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
Our team is called the Special Operations Group. I guess "SWAT" just got to be too much of a cliche, after the TV show and movie.
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thank you for posting these pictures and explaining the training. I lived in Michigan till I was about 16 yrs old. And, behind my house we had a millpond and it was fed by springs. And one year my dad was checking the ice near the railroad trestle because they were going to have a sledding party and they wanted to make sure the ice was froze over good for anyone walking out on it and iceskating. Anyway, theres always been this spring near the trestle and dad fell through the ice. He got out though, and crawled over the ice and back up the hill to the house. By the time he got home his pants were literally froze to him. And, mom had to put him in the bathtub to thaw him out. He was freezing! He was very fortunate though.

It's a good thing that ya'll can train like this to help those who fall through the ice. I imagine that it would be very scary.
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
Sylvan Lake, where the snowmobilers went in a few weeks ago, has a lot of springs - in fact, at one time there was actually a Sylvan Springs Bottling Company. It certainly is a danger.

I fell through the ice myself, when I was a kid, but luckily the water wasn't too deep there and I got home before hypothermia kicked in.

Edited at 2009-02-26 02:05 am (UTC)
Feb. 26th, 2009 09:28 am (UTC)
"I fell through the ice myself, when I was a kid, but luckily the water wasn't too deep there and I got home before hypothermia kicked in."

Oh my gawd, I'm talking to George Bailey!!!!!
Mar. 1st, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
*looks around guiltily* Um, I've never actually seen that entire movie ... just bits and pieces. I take it someone falls through the ice?
Mar. 1st, 2009 10:54 am (UTC)
Lack of culture.

George Bailey falls through the ice rescuing his brother, gets hypothermia, loses the hearing in one ear, and can't go to war because of it.
Mar. 2nd, 2009 07:10 am (UTC)
Ah, that explains scenes from later in the movie; seems like it's always half over when I get to it. I've never heard of someone losing their hearing because of hypothermia, but since the University of Guatemala refused to give me a medical degree I probably just missed it..
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
great shots, that is pretty cool
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Glad you liked them! I'm usually the department photographer, but I can't take credit this time around. (Well, I did pick out the camera!)
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Well, all that safety equipment is pretty buoyant -- the biggest thing I'd worry about is freezing to death!
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Brrrrrr. Brave men. I like that banana boat though, a very clever piece of kit.
Mar. 1st, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
It's a brilliant design, much better than the old days of just using a regular boat.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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