Cedar Rapids Firefighters demonstrate ice rescue - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids Firefighters demonstrate ice rescue

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(KWWL) -

Winter means taking advantage of adventures on the ice, but Cedar Rapids firefighters are warning about the potential dangers. Cedar Rapids firefighters are taking precautions and practicing ice rescue tactics in case someone falls through ice-finding themselves in danger. 

In 2016, Cedar Rapids firefighters conducted 7 water and ice rescues. 

"People who are in the water have absolutely no time," said Cedar Rapids Fire Captain Rick Halleran. "The ice is slippery, so they won't be able to hold on. They might go under and might be fighting to come back up."

Time is everything when battling frigid waters, which is why Halleran and his crew are training for impact. 

Firefighters start by gearing up in what's called a survival suit, which is designed to do just that. The suits are insulated and have buoyancy already built in them, which allows firefighters to battle those frigid elements.

They practice what is called an "open water-self rescue," in case they happen to fall in while rescuing someone else. Fire crews also run through their "go-rescue" which is when a crew member is fastened to a rope and goes into the water to rescue the victim. A crew on land then pulls both the firefighter and victim back to shore. 

"Ice awls in their suits are basically picks so they would use ice awls to jam into the ice to basically get traction and they would pull themselves out of the ice," said Halleran. "And once they're out of the ice they'll roll to disperse their weight from the thin or broken ice to the stronger ice."

Halleran says there are ways to prevent yourself from even falling into an ice rescue situation. 

"When something happens they don't have time to think or react, so they need to do the planning ahead of time," said Halleran. "Have flotation devices with them, you know maybe a seat cushion that provides flotation. Let their family members or friends know where they're going to be at. Go with friends or family to participate so if something were to happen, someone could hopefully go summon some help."

Halleran says one of the most important tips is testing the ice along the way. Generally ice is flat on top, but he says you can't be sure how thick it is underneath. 

Firefighters also warn that with changing air temperatures, use extra caution when going on ice because shifting temperatures affect how frozen the ice could be. 

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