Firefighters practice icy pond rescues before looming thaw

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Frozen ponds in Indiana have a deceptive beauty and some are tempted to test their strength with devastating results.  There is also a thaw on the way that will make Central Indiana’s frozen ponds and lakes even more dangerous.

“Oh, it makes your heart sink,” said White River Township Fire Chief Jeremy Pell. “Because usually it’s somebody who is out recreationally and a lot of times it’s kids trying to play out on the ice.”

The White River Township Fire Department knows that call will come sooner or later so they are conducting real life pond rescue training.

“They’re getting into their cold water suits and setting up the ropes,” said Pell.

The fire chief says these first responding are training to make sure their response to this kind of emergency is automatic and familiar because in these frigid conditions time works against them.

“It’s definitely a challenge for the crews,” said Pell.

He says every second counts.  In water temperatures of 32 degrees or below you have about 15 minutes before unconsciousness and exhaustion sets in.  Best case scenario you can only survive for about 45 minutes if you can make it that long.

Typically, there is more than one rescue as the people that try to help quickly get into trouble.

“Often times the rescuer also needs to be rescued,” said firefighter Chad Witham.

Firefighters say every motion, position and step is deliberate, knowing the ice may give way at any moment.

“They learn how to approach the victim and how to go about securing the victim and getting them out safely so they’re not also a victim,” Witham said.

They know the call will come sooner or later because of a dare, a miss-step or a tragic accident and this training will save lives.

“Because that’s really what this is all about,” Pell said.  “Making that difference when they’re having that worst day and they need someone to take care of them.”

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