Coast Guard teaches ice rescue techniques

MUNISING — Fifteen emergency responders from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service in Munising gathered at Sands Point Friday morning for an ice rescue training session. Members from the U.S. Coast Guard Marquette Station spend a number of days training local first responders on how to safely rescue people that go through the ice.

“We like to train all of the local and federal agencies that are in the area because we can’t get to places quickly sometimes,” said Timothy Koscielny, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. “We cover all the up to the Huron Mountains in Big Bay all the way to Grand Marais,” he added.

The Coast Guard went over a number of rescue techniques and scenarios. Every rescue is different due to the number of victims in the water plus how long they’ve been in the water.

And the current weather and ice conditions play a big factor.

“If it’s brittle ice collapsing underneath your weight, we have to take our time. It’s going to take us a little longer. We have to stay low,” said Koscielny. “We are going to take our boat just in case we do break through.”

“A lot of the techniques for ice rescue are similar to what we use for open water rescue in the summer,” said Shaun Hughes, a park ranger for the National Park Service. “Just like with anything if you don’t’ practice it, you start to get a little bit rusty. It’s good to keep our skills up to date.”

The Coast Guard practices their ice rescue techniques three to four times a week.

“We like to show our presence that we’re out and we are doing training so people see us and they know we’re doing our jobs and we’re training to make sure we’re able to help them,” said Koscielny.
If you happen to go through the ice, the first thing you need to do is catch your breath and remain calm before you try and get out.

Hypothermia can occur within ten minutes of entering the water.

“If you’re wearing an insulated dry suit like I am, it might take a while for hypothermia to set in,” said Hughes. “If you’re wearing a pair of blue jeans and a jacket, it could be pretty quick.”

“To get yourself out, we use an army crawl method,” said Koscielny. “Put your hands in a fist underneath your chest and you put them up on the ice shelf; you try and kick your legs as hard as you can and army crawl, until you can get a leg up and try and roll away from the ice.”

The Coast Guard will train the Grand Marais Fire Department on Saturday.