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Coast Guard trains for ice rescues on Lake Champlain - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Coast Guard trains for ice rescues on Lake Champlain

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Going out onto a frozen body of water brings a risk of falling through.

"If you're in the unfortunate position that you find yourself out in the open water, you've got to get out of the water as fast as you can," said Maj. Gen. Steven Cray of the Vermont National Guard.

That's why the U.S. Coast Guard in Burlington is training for cold winter waters that can bring extreme dangers. But breaking through ice is just the start of trouble. Keeping calm and working quickly to get out can be the most challenging when seconds of survival start ticking.

The Coast Guard uses what they call a "1-10-1" rule.

"You have about a minute to get your breathing under control. If you stay in the water, you have about 10 minutes of meaningful movement, so that means your arms, legs and your fingers until that goes away. And you have about one hour until you're unconscious," said Petty Officer Jason Balmer of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard crews may have special suits to keep them warm, but they know most people who go through the ice do not. And with a water temperature in the 30s, they know that seconds matter.

"Anytime that we get in the water or anytime that the victim gets in the water, it makes the urgency of the situation go up pretty drastically. So the weather is our biggest concern," Balmer said.

Coast Guard crews train like this multiple times per week in the winter. They get fully dressed in special suits and take turns as mock victims. The training is so vital to prepare, that Rear Adm. Steven Poulin, the Coast Guard's district commander from Boston, came to Lake Champlain to experience it firsthand.

"What surprised me the most was even with this dry suit, where I'm fully protected from the water, it's still cold. When you're in the water, you're still cold despite this equipment. And then trying to physically get yourself out of the ice is very difficult. It's very strenuous," Poulin said.

An eye-opening experience to the real dangers of ice rescue.

The Coast Guard says all members of the Burlington station go through this training and are prepared to go when the call comes.

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