PG firefighters undergoing ice rescue training - KMSP-TV

PG firefighters undergoing ice rescue training

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Rescuing people who fall through the ice can be a dangerous and harrowing experience. It takes skill to get them out.

A dozen firefighters climbed into Mustang Survival suits and voluntarily slid their bodies into the icy waters of the Anacostia River Thursday -- all of them looking to be certified as experts.

The idea is to give the firefighters first-hand experience in what it is like to be in the water waiting for help.

And in an actual emergency, the rescuers will actually climb into the water with the person they are attempting to save.

"When you talk about the operation itself, if you are coming out here to get somebody, it's just as quick for us to go in the water and get (them),” said Instructor Tommy Smith. “That way we have positive contact with the person the whole time.”

Smith says unlike in drowning cases, there is little concern over a person panicking and dragging the rescuer down.

"You are going to lose all of your motor skills,” said Smith. “All of your operational skills as far as your hands, so those people are not going to be thrashing around. If they are, it’s not going to take long.”

The firefighters also showed off tools they can use to get out of the water on their own. Using plastic ice picks attached to their survival suits that can be used to stab the ice and pull themselves up.

"You want to hit close to you, hit hard into the ice," Smith told the trainees.

Another tool allows firefighters to pull them themselves out with the help of a pole.

Once they are certified, the firefighters will be permitted to respond with technical rescue squads strategically headquartered in three places around the county.

In 2009, Prince George’s County firefighters were called to rescue 16 people in 16 different incidents in the county. Since then, there have been none.

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