COMSTOCK TWP., Mich. — Whether it’s snowmobiling, ice fishing, or just exploring mother nature, people will no doubt end up out on the water.
Which is why a local fire and rescue department spent the morning in the cold learning how to react when someone falls through.
On a snowy, frigid Saturday near Kalamazoo, in very cold water, ice fishermen watched them work.
“We’re gonna work on self-rescue this morning, throw and reach,” said one member of the crew.
The Comstock Township Fire Department spent the morning training for emergencies on the water. They used ice-rescue dry suits, rigs for ropes, and safety lines to make sure they’re ready for the “what ifs.”
“So I would say, once we arrive and determine where the person’s at, if they’re close enough here, we don’t have to trek across the lake; 10 minutes is a decent time,” said Captain Kevin Thompson. “There’s a lot of factors with where the victim is and what position they’re in that are gonna change what we do.”
Thompson is the captain who’s teaching his crew they only have minutes to get to the victim.
“So I would say once we arrive and determine where the person’s at, if they’re close enough where we don’t have to trek across the lake, 10 minutes is a decent time,” said Thompson. “There’s a lot of factors with where the victim is and what position they’re in that are gonna change what we do.”
Thompson reminds people if they’re out on the water fishing, it’s important to pay attention to the color of the ice when drilling.
“So, if it’s nice clear lake ice, that’s better ice. But you really won’t know you have to cut a hole to find out if you’re ice fishing to really know that you can’t tell just by looking at the top normally what kinda ice it is,” he said.
If a fisherman or someone out playing on an ATV or snowmobile falls through, it’s only a matter of time before their body can no longer fight.
“Once your body gets to 95 degrees that’s when the starts of hypothermia set in, and you know, the water temperature here is freezing or less, and it’s a pretty fast onset.”
That’s why the department was out on Campbell Lake at Robert Morris Park, learning how to rescue people from the cold, frigid water and how to save themselves.
The biggest advice if you fall through is not to panic.
“It’s a cold rush of water, but if you panic, you flail around and you can’t really maintain yourself, so don’t panic. The first thing you want to do is try to get your arms up on the ice and hold yourself up out of the water as much as you can,” said Thompson.
Captain Thompson tells us if you fall through, try and get yourself horizontal with the ice and kick to get back up on it, and then roll away as demonstrated in the video.
Also, if your pet gets on the ice and falls through, call 9-1-1. Crews say they have the equipment to help, and if you fall through, it’s just another person they have to rescue.