Volunteers learn ice rescue | PostIndependent.com

Volunteers learn ice rescue

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo by Bill Hiort

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” Tom Ice doesn’t want anyone to fall through the ice.

But he could be one of the Garfield County Search and Rescue volunteers that might end up rescuing someone who does. Ice was one of the four search and rescue volunteers who attended a Colorado State Parks ice rescue training session Dec. 18.

There are around 50 total volunteers for county search and rescue. Many of them have received similar training before.

The training day included hours in the classroom followed by hands-on work at Harvey Gap. Rescuers practiced techniques to approach and rescue someone who’s fallen through the ice into a body of water.

“You’ve got to determine how you’re going to get out there and get them,” Ice said. “If they’re in the water already, you know it’s unstable, so what they taught us is techniques to get out to them without actually falling through.”

The ideal situation would be to throw someone a rope and pull them out. Next best is to get close to the victim and help them out. The last resort is to get in the water wearing an ice suit to stay warm and put a rescue ring on the victim to allow rescuers on shore to pull them out.

Ice said rescuers may roll or crawl out to a spot where someone has fallen through the ice. That way weight is distributed over a wider surface area and is less likely to cause additional cracking. Rescuers also may use a special “boat” that spreads out weight over a greater area.

The Dec. 18 training was the first time Ice, who works for a construction company, had ever put on an ice suit and jumped into the water. Search and rescue volunteers took turns being the victim and rescuing the victim. Other members have gone through similar training before, Ice said, but search and rescue plans to continue ice rescue training as part of its ongoing training programs each year. Ice has volunteered for county search and rescue for about five years.

There haven’t been any calls of anyone falling through the ice yet that Garfield County Search and Rescue has been called out to this winter, Ice said. He estimated it happens at least two or three times in Colorado each year. Two snowmobilers were just rescued early Monday morning after crashing through the ice on Grand Lake.

Ice said people should always keep track of their kids and avoid letting them play on possibly unstable ice. He recommends also avoiding going out on the ice alone, and keeping about 10 yards of distance from the nearest person. People are also encouraged to ask state parks personnel about the conditions before going out on ice.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121


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