TIME IS TICKING: Waterloo firefighters train for ice rescues - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

TIME IS TICKING: Waterloo firefighters train for ice rescues

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First responders must be ready for any kind of emergency. Waterloo firefighters are taking precautions and practicing ice rescue tactics in case someone falls through ice, finding themselves in danger.

KWWL was invited to George Wyth State Park to experience how firefighters carry out an ice rescue.

Waterloo firefighter Ty Graham says time is of the essence in an ice rescue. 

"Your body is going to lose heat 25 times faster when it's in water, than it would in just the ambient temperature," said Graham. "So time is even more critical if you have somebody that's in the water. So it's really important that we have an adequate number of personnel and properly trained personnel that can get here, respond fast, and know exactly what they're doing."

During rescues, every firefighter wears an insulated dry suit to keep them warm. The suits are built with buoyancy to help them them afloat. 

"Our ice that we're working with today is anywhere from 12-16 inches deep," said Graham. 

However, Graham says the danger sometimes lies in the temperature outside. 

"With it being 35, 40 degrees today, you are going to have spots that will get thinner," said Graham. 

With the help of firefighters, KWWL's Elizabeth Amanieh safely got into the water, holding onto the ice.

Victims are usually struggling to stay afloat. In this case, the dry suit is keeping her from going under. 

Using a safety rope, in less than 45 seconds, Elizabeth was safely out of the water and back on the ice. 

It's a mission the crew is training for, but it's not one they want to have to resort to.

"If you don't know, don't go," said Graham. "If you're not familiar with being out on the ice a lot, like a seasoned ice fisherman, don't bother. There's plenty of safe ice in the Black Hawk County area that you can use, that's actually designated for recreation. So I would advise, if you want to skate or something like that, use that ice."

Graham offers reminders for those venturing out on ice this winter. 

"Use some common sense," said Graham. "Don't get near open water. If you're going to be out, obviously dress appropriately. Let somebody know where you're going to be and always be with another person. And if you do find yourself getting into trouble, make sure that you have the ability to call 911 or someone on shore can call 911 for you, so that we can get there."

Graham cautions staying in the water too long can be potentially dangerous.

"The normal body temperature is 98.6, when you go below 95 you get slightly hypothermic," said Graham. "Low 90's, you start to lose tactile function, motor skills are lessened, you can't move as well. Your body temperature starts to drop a little more, you start to possibly hallucinate, losing consciousness, having a little bit of delirium."

The department will practice cold-water rescues again this spring.

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