Members of the Verona Rescue Squad took an icy plunge into Verona Park Lake Sunday as part of a yearly recertification ice rescue program.
To assist potential victims, the rescue squad had to simulate someone falling through the ice to practice their rescue techniques.
"No one has fallen into the lake in recent years, but in the past there have been incidences, long before my time,” said Verona Rescue Squad Captain Tim McLoughlin, who has been with the squad nearly 10 years.
Verona Rescue Squad President Sue DeWitt has also never seen an ice rescue in Verona in her 33 years on the squad.
However, incidences like the two boys who were recently killed after falling through the ice at Budd Lake always keep the squad in check and remind them that there is a very real possibility of that happening, she added.
The training was offered through BPC Rescue, of Rochdale MA, with certified instructor Dan Meloche. BPC Rescue offers training courses and sells ice and water rescue gear.
“If someone falls through, time is of the essence,” said McLoughlin. “Hypothermia can set in within minutes. The more time it takes getting to this person, the greater the chances of hypothermia.”
Once hypothermia begins to set in, the victim becomes weakened, making it harder for them to hold on and more difficult for the rescue squad in getting them out.
If a victim falls through the ice, they should remain calm and control their breathing and find a piece of solid ice to grab onto and try to use one arm at a time to signal for help, said McLoughlin.
“Self-rescue is safest for everyone if they can do so without putting themselves in harm’s way or overexerting themselves,” he said.
Taking the Plunge
With the assistance of an insulated safety suit, members of the Verona Rescue Squad practiced their ice rescue techniques in the icy water.
“The suits are incredible, said McLoughlin. “There's two factors, protection from cold and buoyancy. I wore jeans and a t-shirt under the suit and when I got out of the water I was sweating.”
There are many ways to handle a rescue depending on the situation and conditions, he added.
In one scenario, if a victim falls through ice and is conscious and able to help themselves, rescue members can throw a floatation device on a rope and reel them in. Another option would be to send a rescue boat, but only if the ice is thin enough to break up.
In the most dangerous of the scenarios, a crew has to anchor themselves on the shore and secure a rescue worker with a rope. The rescuer tests the conditions and then proceeds in a crawling position toward the victim.
There has to be as many rescuers on shore as in the water, in case something goes wrong, said McLoughlin.
The rescuer either pulls them out or gets into the hole with them and tethers the victim to the rope to be pulled in to safety.
“It's important to have up-to-date training and to practice these skills,” said DeWitt. “We hope to have several of these classes and have everyone on the rescue team certified.”
Anyone interested in joining the volunteer rescue squad can fill out an application on the website or call (973) 857-4760.