Ice rescue teams sharpen skills - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Ice rescue teams sharpen skills

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Accidents out on the ice on Lake Champlain have become more common in recent years. On Sunday local departments came out to learn life saving lessons to make sure they are prepared if and when they get the call.

"We do annual refresher training for our team and for most of the mutual aid departments that respond with us on Mallett's Bay or in their communities," said Michael Cannon with Colchester Technical Rescue.

Men and women from Colchester Technical Rescue, Mallets Bay Fire and surrounding departments suited up for the Ice Water Rescue training course. "What we try to educate them with is thin ice, how to get themselves up and out of the ice if they happen to fall through the ice and into the water, and how to successfully try to get a victim out of the water," Cannon said.

"It's a little cumbersome trying to get yourself up -- that's the major challenge -- and then making sure, keeping the victim calm so we have a perfect outcome," said Essex Town Fire Capt. David Sheeran.

Peter and Nick Henry are both firefighters for the Essex Fire Department.  The brothers say after certification they'll be ready to respond out on the ice. "There's a lot of people that -- like at Indian Brook -- like to go out and walk around and so at some point.  I believe that we will have to go out and use this training in order to help and save somebody," Nick said.

"I believe if that moment came, I could act in a moment's notice," Peter added.

The skills crews will learn on Lake Champlain will not only help them save victims, but also save themselves in situations where the icy waters could prove fatal. "Being immersed in the water, in the summer time, where you might have an hour in the water before hypothermia takes over -- you only have minutes on days like today when the water temperature is just a little bit above 32 degrees," Cannon said.

The local fire and rescue departments take part in ice water training day once a year if they need to be certified, but departments are asking those who are out on the water during the winter time to be safe. "Always try to go out onto the ice with another person if you can, try not to venture out alone if you do venture out alone. You should have some type of flotation device with you," Cannon said.

Ice picks could also be life saving tools for anyone who finds themselves stuck in icy waters. And on days like Sunday, it's training courses like this that ensure rescue teams are prepared for any situation.

This winter is the most ice Lake Champlain has had since 2007, but officials say they still cannot stress safety enough for anyone venturing out on the lake.

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