Frigid temperatures prompt early ice rescue training

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EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan emergency responders started training for ice rescues much earlier than usual after several days of subfreezing temperatures.

“Every year’s a little different. Sometimes the ice comes in early, sometimes it comes in late. So we try to play it by ear,” East Grand Rapids Department of Public Safety Sgt. Tim Schweitzer said.

Monday, there were only a few inches of ice and slush on Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids as crews practiced rescues. 24 Hour News 8’s Sarah Hurwitz played the part of a victim in the freezing water. She needed help from three people to don an ice rescue suit that is water-tight and made using materials that reflect body heat.

“Get out there, secure the person to the boogie board, which is that yellow board that you came in on, and then just haul them in as quickly as possible and get them warmed up as quickly as possible,” Officer Beth Moore explained the process.

Crews initially planned on venturing deeper into the water to practice rescues in deeper water, but didn’t want to make it more dangerous for fishermen by breaking holes in the ice.

“We do have a lot of fisherman that like to come out. We like to keep the ice nicer for them, obviously. We’ll wait until the ice is a little bit thicker before we take the boat out again,” Moore said.

East Grand Rapids Public Safety will never say it’s safe to go out on the ice. But if you do, there are some safety guidelines to keep in mind: If the ice is two inches deep or less, it’s not safe for anyone to walk on. Once it’s four to six inches deep, a person can venture out. 12 to 15 inches is potentially thick enough for a large SUV, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“If one part of the lake is not stable, then you can assume there are other parts that you can’t see that aren’t stable,” Moore said.

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