Ice And Cold Water Rescue - Part IV

Photo By Gerald Dworkin

There are a number of Water Rescue and Ice Rescue training programs conducted throughout the U.S. for Public Safety and Rescue organizations and their personnel. Training should also be conducted as part of a department's on-going in-service continuing education program. Rescue personnel need to be able to size-up a scene and determine the equipment and personnel resources required to respond safely and effectively to a water or ice rescue or recovery operation.

Equipment must be in good operating condition and always at the ready. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) must be in place and personnel must be familiar with the pre-established pre-plans in order to respond appropriately to an in-water or ice incident.

Photo By Gerald Dworkin

Rescue personnel must have a comprehensive knowledge of the personnel and equipment resources available within their department, and the Incident Commander must make a rapid determination whether or not the resources are immediately available to respond to the incident. If personnel and equipment resources are not immediately available, then additional resources must be obtained rapidly through mutual aid or other resources. This assessment of personnel and equipment requirements and resources should be made based on the dispatch information available enroute to the scene, rather than to delay this assessment upon arrival at the scene. [PHOTO 28]

Just as Firefighters practice donning personal protective equipment and SCBA equipment for fighting structure fires, Water and Ice Rescue personnel must also be competent in donning personal protective equipment, such as Cold Water/Ice Rescue Suits. Furthermore, they must be competent in their self-rescue skills in order to extricate themselves from the water should a rescuer fall through the ice.

Rescue personnel must be knowledgeable about the dangers of Torso Reflex and must know how to instantly react to prevent this occurrence should they suddenly find themselves immersed in cold water. (Torso reflex is a reaction caused by the gasp reflex when cold water hits a person's face or chest. If the rescuer's mouth and nose are not protected during the gasp reflex, they will aspirate cold water into their airway which can cause a laryngospasm resulting in respiratory arrest).

Photo By Gerald Dworkin

At the minimum, Technician level personnel should be competent in basic rescue and survival skills to include:

  • Immersion and propulsion in the water while wearing a Cold Water/Ice Rescue Suit or Dry Suit with PFD
  • Advancing across the ice while crawling and using ice picks
  • Prevention of Torso Reflex during Sudden Immersion
  • Self-Rescue
  • Solo Rescue without Buoyant Aid
  • Solo Rescue with Buoyant Aid
  • Solo Rescue with Fast Sling
  • Solo Rescue with Backboard
  • Solo Rescue with Basket Stretcher
  • Solo Rescue with Ladder
  • Solo Rescue with Pike Pole

And, if specialized equipment has been purchased, personnel must obviously be competently trained in the use and maintenance of this equipment.