Amid Ice Safety Concerns, U.S. Coast Guard Drills Emergency Rescue Techniques

Personnel from Coast Guard Station Burlington practiced rescues on the frozen surface of Lake Champlain

Personnel from U.S. Coast Guard Station Burlington practiced cold-water rescue techniques Wednesday on Malletts Bay in Lake Champlain.

“This concept is completely new to me,” Petty Officer Jeremiah Ward of the U.S. Coast Guard said at the training.

It’s Ward’s first winter in Vermont, following the Nevada native’s arrival from a previous assignment in the South.

Ward and his colleagues were practicing a host of rescue techniques on the frozen surface of the bay. They were going through different approaches for rescues, discussing which methods to use depending on a victim’s varying physical abilities, distance from shore, or the strength and stability of the ice.

“We hope we don’t get called, but when we do, we want to be as ready as we can to go out and assist,” Ward said of the need to prepare for emergencies no one wants to see happen.

Agencies across the Northeast have had to respond to real-life ice emergencies in recent days.

Tuesday, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, an elderly fisherman fell through the ice. Then, two police officers trying to save him broke through, too.

All three were able to stay afloat until they were rescued, first responders said.

The Coast Guard’s Laura Bostwick pointed to this week’s temperature swings and high winds as factors that could really affect ice thickness.

She asked people to double- or triple-check conditions before walking on frozen lakes or ponds.

“No ice is safe ice,” Petty Officer Bostwick said. “You can’t just make the assumption that because it was good earlier that it’s going to be the same conditions when you go out again.”

Bostwick urged ice fishermen or anyone else venturing onto the ice to wear a life vest, to let a friend know where they’re going, and to bring a cell phone with them that can be stored in a plastic bag to keep it dry.

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