Maryland Firefighters Train for Icy Water Rescues

Firefighters from Montgomery County's Swift Rescue Team tested the icy waters on Wednesday to teach a lesson.

The team held a training exercise on a frozen lake. One well-insulated team member got in the water after an axe was used to break the ice. He struggled to keep his breath and showed how difficult it can be to get leverage to pull oneself out, News4's Keith Garvin reported.

Firefighters said the most dangerous factors when walking on ice may be what you can't see.

"You never know what's under there," said Montgomery County Fire Department Capt. Bob Hough. "The amount of vegetation, the amount of aquatic life, the depth of the water. If you have a stream coming through. All these factors help us or can cause the ice not to be as thick as we would hope it to be."

The key to survival is knowing what to do and what not to do in the event of an emergency.

"What you do not want to do is ever send anybody else out on the ice," Hough said. "If one person fell through under their own body weight, everyone else who goes out is going to suffer the same fate."

Firefighter Chris Maple has firsthand knowledge of the dangers. When he was 12, he used safety techniques to save a friend.

"We were playing hockey on a pond, and he went out to check out a section of ice that didn't have any snow on it to see if we could get some better skating over there and he went through," he said.

Firefighters said if you fall through the ice and your head is not submerged, you have only about one to two minutes to try and save yourself. After that, any extra movement will bring on hypothermia that much quicker, so it's best to grab onto something, remain still and wait for help to arrive.