FOX 17 Cameras Take You Inside an Ice Rescue Drill

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jan 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-16 21:46:59-05

ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — Allegan County emergency responders trained for cold water rescues on Dumont Lake Thursday.

One of the machines featured in the rescue, the Allegan County hovercraft.

It looks like a cross between an inflatable raft and a fan boat.

It’s designed to glide over the ice and snow in order to get to those who fall into icy waters faster.

Divers also trained within the lake Thursday.

They searched for life-sized mannequins that were placed on the bottom of the lake as if they were searching for a real victim.

Crew members also cleared the snow and ice away from certain points around the hole they cut in the ice so that divers could find a way out if needed.

“They`re shoveling a wagon wheel around the hole. If the diver is down below, if they come off their tether, they can look up and the light shines down through that path. That helps divers find their way back to the center of the hole so they can get out,” said Scott Johanson of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office.

Dive Master Todd Wagner said the biggest challenge they face in a rescue situation is getting to the victim.

“It’s not always a lake that has a public access or a paved road that`s been plowed,” said Wagner. “It could be anywhere from two yards to two miles through a two-track in the woods.”

Wagner said this winter, the team has been fortunate.

They’ve only had one water rescue this winter which was on Black Lake in Watson Township according to Wagner.

He said the warnings about ice dangers are worth repeating.

Wagner said you shouldn’t be heading out unless you  have enough of a base over the water.

“You want a minimum of 2 inches of good solid ice,” said Wagner.

He said you should stay off of Lake Michigan completely.

“Lake Michigan, which is a whole different animal, stay off the ice there. Although it looks like large icebergs, it could be hollow spots, very honey comb, you could drop 20 to 30 feet into the water and nobody would even know you were there,” said Wagner.

If you should fall through the ice, Thursday’s emergency training could save your life.  However, emergency responders would rather you stay out of the water in the first place.

“If you are out there and you feel the ice giving way underneath you, and you feel a cracking, lay down, get as flat as you can,” said Wagner. “That way you`re dispersing your weight on the ice and then you can roll back or crawl back to where you came from to a safer position.”

Wagner says if you have any questions about whether or not the ice is safe, contact the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, the DNR or the Michigan State Police.