Twenty emergency personnel from five area departments braved frigid temperatures Jan. 22 to practice ice rescue.

Twenty emergency personnel from five area departments braved frigid temperatures Jan. 22 to practice ice rescue.

The Genoa Township Fire Department held the training session with personnel from the Tri-Township Fire Department, Delaware County Sheriff's Office, Westerville Fire Department and Delaware County Dive Team, said Genoa Township fire chief Gary Honeycutt.

Training was held in a classroom and in Hoover Reservoir at Red Bank Harbor.

"This is a special training session that is ice-rescue specific," said Genoa Lt. Andrew Spitler.

In addition to ice training, the township's water rescue teams train every Monday.

Water rescuers have to be skilled scuba divers, no matter what the weather conditions, Honeycutt said.

"The importance of this training is to become comfortable in cold water, to gain confidence in diving under an ice shelf, and to train for a quick and safe ice rescue response for when an incident arises," Honeycutt said.

"Ice rescue differs from warmer season water rescue mainly due to the colder climates. We wear thermal liners under our dive suits and ice rescue suits in the winter," Spitler said.

The Genoa department has 13 full-time ice rescue divers and at least three divers available for immediate response at any given time, Honeycutt said.

"Sub-surface diving is a very specialized rescue discipline, particularly in this area due to the black water conditions. ... Divers are unable to see their hands in front of their faces just 5 feet under water. This means that all rescues are performed by systematic search patterns and the sense of touch. This type of rescue takes multiple hours of training to perfect. Not only the diving portion but the communication necessary to complete the patterns," Honeycutt said.

Along with the initial training, the township fire department has invested 3,359 hours into ice and water rescue training, Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt and Spitler warn that there is "no such thing as 100 percent safe ice."

Ice must be at least four inches thick to walk on. It must be five inches thick for snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, and 8 to 12 inches thick for cars and small trucks, they said.