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Emergency responders plunge in frigid water to practice ice rescues

Emergency responders plunge in frigid water to practice ice rescues
LEWISTON, ID - The latest wave of freezing temperatures across the region provides an ideal and rare opportunity for police to prepare for a deadly scenario.

Reporter Sophia Miraglio was there as crews plunged into the icy waters for a realistic ice rescue scenario.

Hypothermia can set in, in as little as 15 minutes. Which is why the men and women that would be there to save you know that time is of the essence.

"The problem once you fall in the ice, is that the ice is usually thinner so and the more you try to get out you just keep breaking it away and then you over-exert yourself and become more hypothermic," said Lewiston Fire Dept. Division Chief, Travis Myklebust.

"It's not a very common practice for us to do ice rescue but there's still the potential to have an ice rescue if somebody out there on the ice and runs into trouble," said Lewiston Fire Dept. Paramedic Engineer, Tim McFarland.

Members of the Lewiston Fire Department as well as the Nez Perce County Sheriff's office went through rescue scenarios several times.

"When you're doing this it means that you want them to pull you in," said Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office Marine Division Corporal, Jerry Florence. "A lot of time when divers get in the water, when they first come us they up...I'm okay."

Taking turns as both the rescuer and victim.

"We're kind of constricted in these suits because there is limited movement, and once you get in that water you definitely cool down and can feel the coldness," said McFarland.

In cold water, conserving body heat is vital for survival and for increasing your chances of being rescued. However that's easier said then done with water temperatures around 35-degrees.

"They got like one minute to start controlling their breathing, and if they don't get it controlled then they're in a more serious condition," said Florence.

And while a chainsaw was needed to cut through the five-inch ice, Division Chief Travis Myklebust cautions people to weak spots that are not visible to the eye.

"With the warming trend over the next few days that ice is gonna start cracking going to start thinning out," said Myklebust. "So our recommendation is if there's ice don't go on it, because you don't know how thick it is and around here it's usually not very thick."

If you do fall through the ice and are unable to pull yourself out, try to control your breathing and tuck into a semi-fetal position, that'll help conserve body heat until you're rescued.
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