ICE SAFETY: WET Team Practices Rescue

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A special team of Des Moines Firefighters spent Monday afternoon brushing up on their rescue skills.

The Water Emergency Team (WET) skated onto the ice at Grays Lake to practice with new equipment and refresh their knowledge of ice rescues.   

Captain John Williams says the Des Moines WET team hasn’t had to put its ice rescue skills to use for several years, but this winter is colder than last making more ice and increasing the possibility of a rescue.

Williams added, “Anything can happen anywhere. There’s no factor that says ice is always safe.”

The Fire Department recommends the following safety tips for spending time on ice:

  1. Never go on the ice alone. Naturally occurring ice is unpredictable. Make sure you have proper safety equipment and a buddy.
  2. Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) under your winter gear.. The excess bulk may make it difficult to escape from a car – especially through a window.
  3. Wear appropriate footwear. Crampons are used to convert footwear for use on the ice. Some use metal spikes and some use cables – similar to tire chains.
  4. Carry ice picks at all times. Put them in an accessible pocket where they will be easy to reach while floating in the water.
  5. Carry a throw rope with you. You can buy or make one using an empty and clean plastic jug stuffed with nylon rope.
  6. Stopping on ice is extremely difficult. When snowmobiling or driving in low-visibility conditions, go slow enough to be able to stop if you see something. Many vehicle accidents happen because the driver couldn’t stop by the time he or she saw the hole in the ice.
  7. When driving, remove your seatbelt (since you’re going slow and easy) and your PFD (see Step 2). Keep your window rolled down to facilitate a quick escape if your car falls through the ice.
  8. There is no such thing as 100% safe ice.