Ice And Cold Water Rescue - Part II

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.


Once the rescuer makes contact with the victim, he/she can activate the inflatable PFD to provide an additional 25 - 35 lbs. of buoyancy. Because these PFDs are cumbersome when deployed, they should only be inflated after the rescuer makes contact with the victim.


Ice cleats are fitted over boots to provide additional traction for rescue personnel while walking or crawling on ice and snow. Care must be taken in selecting the appropriate type of cleats to be sure they will stay on the foot while walking in deep snow, while walking on ice, and while immersed in water.


The length of rope required depends on the location, but a floating line specifically designed for use in the water and stuffed inside a standard rope bag should be available to attach to rescue personnel, as a shore-based tether line, before they venture out onto the ice to attempt a rescue. Once the rescuer contacts the victim, rescuers on shore can pull the victim and rescuer back to shore using the tether line. Rescue personnel should never venture out onto the ice without being tethered to shore, or tethered to a piece of buoyant rescue equipment, which is then tethered to shore.


Whenever possible, the rescuer should always try to keep some type of buoyant device between himself and the victim. The device should also assist the rescuer in maintaining a firm grasp on the victim while they are being pulled to shore.


A commercial 48" sewn sling can be used to fasten a "Fast-Sling" around the victim to provide a good hand-hold for the rescuer. A make-shift sling can be prepared by tying the two ends together of a 60" piece of 1" webbing. As the rescuer advances towards the victim, he slips the sling over the victim's shoulders before attempting to drag him onto solid ice.


A standard roof ladder is ideal for assisting the rescuer to distribute his weight across the ice and to serve as an extension device to extend to the victim in the water. Depending on the depth of the water, one end of the ladder can also be dropped into the water as an aid for the rescue personnel and victim to climb out of the water.


Most fire departments have basket stretchers within their rescue equipment inventory. A backboard should be placed and secured inside the basket stretcher and a flotation collar should be attached to the upper half of the basket. This allows the foot of the basket to be sunk below the victim and the victim can then be slid into the basket stretcher. The basket stretcher will also help to equalize and distribute the rescuer's weight across the ice as he approaches the victim. If the rescuer falls through the ice, he then has a buoyant platform for safety. When the victim needs to be removed from the basket, the backboard is removed with the patient secured to the backboard.


The use of a standard backboard will help distribute the weight of the rescuer while progressing across the ice. They are ideal for use by the rescuer to slide across the ice towards the distressed victim. Once the rescuer reaches the victim, the board can be used as an extension device, or the rescuer can slide the board under the victim and then have shore-based rescuers tow the victim to safety.


A standard pike pole can help distribute the rescuer's weight across the ice while approaching the victim. When within reach of the victim, the rescuer can use the pike pole to snag the victim to pull the victim out of the water. If the victim is submerged, the pike pole can be used to attempt to locate and snag the victim from the bottom or just under the sheet ice layer.


The Water Rescue Jaws is a reach pole that extends to 18' that will grab and hold a victim until he can be pulled to the surface. A short downward thrust opens the "J" shaped tongs to a width of 42 inches. When downward motion stops, the tongs automatically close. As a victim is lifted to the surface, the upward movement through the water, along with the force of gravity, keeps the tongs closed, securely grasping the victim.