ST. JOHN TOWNSHIP | Nature provided plenty of cold water, bitter wind chills and light snow for Tuesday night’s live cold water rescue drill by the Lake Hills Fire Department at the Hyles Anderson College lake.
“There’s no ice (on the lake), but the technique is the same,” said Assistant Fire Chief Steve Flores as the 15 firefighters arrived in their cold water suits.
The annual drill allows first responders to practice rescuing a person who has fallen through the ice.
The cold water suits keep the firefighters dry and warm, allowing them to stay in the frigid water for hours to practice, Flores said.
It’s the second time the lake at the college has been used with the cooperation of Hyles Anderson officials, Lake Hills Fire Chief Shane Adams said.
Despite the lack of ice, Adams said this winter creates just the situation where cold water rescues would be necessary.
“We have temperatures in the 50s, then it goes down in the 20s for several days and people think the ice is solid. It’s not like when you have a winter where it’s cold all the time and the ice is 8 to 10 inches thick,” Adams said.
The drill also gives first responders an opportunity to practice how to deal with a person who is conscious in the water, Flores said.
“When someone is in the water, they’ll try taking you down to stay above the water,” he said. “The first responder needs to go out calmly and talk to the person and explain what is going to be done.”
One firefighter simulates the patient, Flores said. The responder must get behind that person and attach a flotation device to the victim. A rope on the device allows the crew on the shore to pull the victim to safety.
“It’s not just people. Schererville Fire Department has answered calls from people about a duck that was stuck in the ice,” Flores said.
Even during a drill, real life interrupts.
As the crews assembled on the shore to begin the drill Tuesday, an emergency fire call came in. Adams and several firefighters responded to the scene of that fire alarm, taking several of the vehicles originally designated to be on-site.