ICE RESCUE/COLD WATER RESCUE EQUIPMENT
All personnel operating at the Awareness level should be provided with appropriate Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) or Anti-Exposure Coveralls to protect them from the elements and any unintentional entries into the cold water. They can also be trained in the use and have available certain shore-based rescue equipment including rescue throw bags, heaving lines, or other specialty equipment designed to be deployed from shore.
The following is a description of personal protective and basic rescue equipment suitable for use by Awareness level rescue personnel for performing shore-based rescues:
PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICES (PFDS)
PFDs are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and are classified into 5 types. Type I and Type II PFDs are typically not suitable for use by rescue personnel as wearable devices as they are cumbersome and reduce mobility by the wearer. However, they are excellent for use by the victim, before rescue personnel attempt to remove the victim from the hazard. Type III PFDs come in a variety of designs and intended purposes and are the most suitable for use by rescue personnel. A Type IV is a throwable device which may be appropriate for use to slide along the ice or to throw to a victim in the water. A Type V PFD is a special-use PFD or an inflatable PFD.
RESCUE THROW BAG
Rescue throw bags should have a minimum of 70 feet of 5/16" or 3/8" line stuffed inside a bag. The rescuer holds one end of the line and throws the bag to the victim. The line deploys out of the bag when the bag is thrown. The difficulty in using equipment such as this is not in the ability of shore-based rescue personnel to deploy the equipment, but rather, in the ability of the victim to effectively hold onto the device, due to their physical and/or emotional condition. When using a rescue throw bag, the victim must be instructed to wrap himself in the line before an attempt is made to pull the victim to shore.
The rescue ring can be slid along the ice to a victim in the water. It is designed to close around the victim when tension is applied to the lifting ring. This product is significantly superior to a regular ring buoy when rescuing weak or unconscious victims.
The following is a description of equipment suitable for use by Technician level rescue personnel for "go" rescues, both on the ice and in the water:
COLD WATER/ICE RESCUE SUITS
These are one-piece heavy neoprene rubber suits designed for fast and easy donning. Suits have integrated five-fingered gloves, a hood, and rigid-sole boots. Other features include reinforced knee and elbow pads and an integral chest/back harness for attaching tether lines. These suits are designed to keep the wearer warm, afloat and dry in cold water. Tether lines should be attached to the chest of the rescuer during ice rescue incidents, while for open water incidents, rear tether line attachment is acceptable.
Dry Suits are only designed to keep the wearer dry. When using dry suits, the rescuer must wear an under layer of fleece for warmth, and a PFD over the dry suit for buoyancy. The advantage of dry suits over Cold Water/Ice Rescue Suits is that the wearer has more dexterity and freedom of movement which is critical in moving water environments, when handling rope lines, or during more technical rescue operations. Many Dry Suits do not come with integral boots or gloves, so these need to be included as well. The attachment of a shore-based tether line is typically done with the PFD, or with an external harness system.
Commercial ice picks can be purchased or rescuers can improvise their own using wooden dowels and screws. These devices are excellent for assisting the rescuer to pull himself across the ice to the victim and are especially useful for self-rescue should the rescuer fall through the ice. The commercial ice picks are constructed of a plastic shaft, a plastic retractable sheath, and a metal pick. When the ice pick is driven onto the ice, the sheath retracts exposing the metal pick.