Ice rescue training pays off for firefighters
A few hours after Washington Township firefighters completed annual ice rescue training, they utilized the skills to rescue a man from a Billingsly Road pond.
The Washington Township crew coming back from a mutual aid run in Columbus drove by the site right after witnesses called 911.
The crew recalled a rescue method they had just learned during training to get the man onto land.
"The was car in the pond through the ice and the guy was still in the vehicle," said John Nicols, Washington Township training manager. "It was about knee deep in water and wasn't sinking anymore, but he was out there."
The crew extended a ladder over the ice to the man and a firefighter crawled out on the ladder to rescue him. Other crew members on land pulled the man and the firefighter in.
"Every single firefighter or person in this career will run into a water emergency of some type," Nicols said, noting that some things they get training for, such as a building collapse, may never be used.
"Water rescue you will definitely see in your career whether it's ponds, swift water, pools, even bath tubs."
Skills from the icy training session held at the pond in front of the Washington Township Administration building last week are usually used about once a year, Nicols said.
"A dog wanders out on the ice and the owner goes out after it," he said. "That's what we plan for. Something like that happens every year."
Nicols himself is a dog owner, but cautioned people not to follow their pets out on the ice, even if they get stuck.
"Call 911. Don't go out on the ice," he said. "Be patient with us. Your dog is better suited to this than a human. It's deadly. We don't want people falling in."
Although the fire department does annual training on ice rescue, they try not to venture out on the ice or into the water unless necessary.
"We try self-rescue," Nicols said. "People don't think about the keys they have or that a pen can be used to pull them up (on the ice)."
During last week's training, firefighters practiced throwing lines to targets on the ice and used extension tools that can reach potential victims.
"We have throwing and reaching devices to minimize us going into the water," Nicols said.
Some firefighters, however, donned exposure suits that are insulated and built to keep the cold water out before venturing out on the ice in search of weak spots.
Weak spots in the ice are needed for proper training, Nicols said.
"It's more realistic," he said, noting that ice can seem safe at three inches thick in some places, but quickly changes to one-half inch thick in others.
Training included how to sound the ice for thickness, walking and crawling on the ice and even how to pull oneself and others from the icy water.
"We prepare for this stuff every year," Nicols said. "We train everybody."
The township has a Jon boat, which has a flat bottom, that can be used in ice rescues when the ice is breaking quickly, but they also tested out an inflatable boat for rescue situations during last week's training.
"These crafts help them do their job," Nicols said.
A video camera was on scene to document the training and the video will be used for Washington Township employees as well as others.
"We're a training center for Bowling Green and we train people from all over the state and have had some people from other states as well," Nicols said.
Even though ice rescue training is completed for the year and the department has one successful rescue under its belt, Nicols still offered the public a few words of advice: "There is no such thing as safe ice."