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Schuyler firefighters complete ice rescue training

Schuyler firefighters complete ice rescue training

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Nine members of the Schuyler Fire-Rescue completed level two ice rescue training over the weekend.

The nine Schuyler firefighters were among a group of roughly two dozen from various agencies that gathered in David City for the training.

On Sunday morning, they put their skills to the test at the western pond in David City Park and practiced saving each other on the frozen water.

A total of 22 firefighters attended. Aside from the Schuyler representatives, there were members from agencies in David City, Columbus, Hastings and Raymond.

Following the weekend training, Schuyler Fire-Rescue Chief Brad Sock said his department will have nine total technicians certified in level one and level two ice rescue.

Under a mutual aid agreement, the Schuyler department will be paged every time David City gets called for an ice rescue.

"We'll do the same thing for David City," Sock said.

Split up into teams for the training, the firefighters took turns playing hero and victim and practiced rescue scenarios for single and multiple victims.

The participating firefighters at David City Park were all already certified to do level one ice rescue, a prerequisite to participate in the level two training.

Level two builds on the foundation created during the level one training. Level one surface ice rescue focuses on shorter-range rescues where the victim is fewer than 250 feet from the shore. It covers basic communication techniques and team operations, self-rescue scenarios and victim extrication and assessment.

Level two training goes beyond that. It focuses on more elaborate and advanced rescues, where there may be multiple victims and victims who are more than 250 from shore. Technicians learn how to use more advanced rope and rigging set-ups to haul rescuers and victims out onto the ice and back into the shore. Level two also includes more advanced care for hypothermic patients.

Bo and Becky Tibbetts of Public Safety Dive Services traveled from Grand Junction, Colorado, to give the training. They've been to David City in the past to hold ice rescue trainings.

Equipping a fire department for ice rescue is no small thing.

Apart from the trainings themselves, each of which costs upwards of $400 per person, a good deal of equipment is necessary.

Schuyler and David City both have newer rescue suits for their firefighters, which are dual-purpose and can be used in both swift water and ice rescue operations. The suits cost about $850 each.

Ice rescues also require specific kinds of ropes that won’t freeze, as well as sleds to put people out and bring them in on the ice.

Schuyler and David City have special operations trailers to haul all that gear.

All told, ice rescue capability requires a significant investment, but one which will benefit many surrounding communities.

Bo said it's not uncommon for multiple agencies to complete trainings together to maximize that benefit.

"We actually like multiple agencies to work together because on a real call that's the real world for us," Bo said.

When volunteer departments get called out for an ice rescue, only a few technicians may be available to respond. Only the certified ice rescue technicians can actually be on the ice during an operation, so the more there are in the area, the better.

"There can be other support staff, or what they call line tenders, to hold the ropes and bring the victim and rescuer in," David City Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Mark Sloup said.

The quality of the ice in a real-world ice rescue operation is unpredictable and unknowable. Often the ice will be compromised, varying in thickness or broken into several pieces.

The level two ice rescue training is special because it equips technicians to save themselves as well as others.

"Each individual has to be able to get themselves out of the situation," Sloup said.

Molly Hunter is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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