Three more members of Mad River Township Fire and EMS have completed a training course in ice rescue, making a total of seven department members now certified in the specialized rescue technique.

Mad River Township Fire and EMS Chief Tracy Young said having this many members of his department certified in ice rescue will not only benefit residents in Mad River Township, but those in many surrounding communities as well during mutual aid calls.

“It’s a partnership,” said Young. “Different agencies specialize in different fields, and Enon is well-known for water and ice rescue,” he said. “The significance of this training is that not many teams around here have that capability.”

Paramedic Devin Adams, Firefighter/Paramedic Kyle Bussey, and Firefighter Eric Stacy completed ice rescue training on Sunday, January 26 in Monclova Township, Ohio, just south of Toledo. Bussey said four other members of the department completed the training in years past.

The three men completed their certification with Michigan Rescue Concepts, a traveling ice and water rescue training company. The first half of the day was spent in the classroom, doing book-work and becoming skilled in the effects and treatment of hypothermia. Next, it was on to the hands-on part of the course, which found the men battling the elements as they submerged themselves into the icy water.

Before their hands-on training began, the trainees were asked to see how many coins they could grab out of a plastic tote filled with ice water. “That exercise was to show how quickly you lose the dexterity in your hands,” Bussey said. “It wasn’t long at all.”

Mad River Township and EMS currently has four ice rescue suits, neoprene dry-suits specially-designed to keep first responders warm and buoyant while potentially saving lives. Kurt Werner, a Firefighter/EMT in Mad River Township, said they have two differently-colored suits which aid the department in communication during training exercises.

Werner said the department is equipped with specialized apparatus which also aids in rescue techniques, including buoyant rope, special harnesses, a foam sling, and many more. “We have a lot of water around here,” Werner said. “Soon, it’s going to be warming up, and all of this ice is going to start weakening…ice becomes much weaker during periods of freezing and thawing,” said Werner. Using the rescue sling, first responders float out to the victim while holding onto the sling themselves, then secure the sling around the victim and attach it to a rope that is then pulled in by other rescuers on the shore. “You never, ever let go of the victim once you establish contact,” Werner said. “That’s the most important thing they teach us.”

Members of the department have also been taught certain improvisational techniques to employ when needed, such as capping off a normal fire hose at both ends and throwing it out to the victim as a tow-rope.

“All it takes is one kid playing on some snow-covered ice for disaster to strike,” Werner said, adding that once a person becomes submerged in icy water, they only have a matter of minutes to get out before the worst-case scenario occurs. Werner said many ponds in Mad River Township and the surrounding areas are spring-fed, meaning they thaw at a much quicker rate than others.

Werner said it is important for those who work or play near bodies of water to always tell someone where they’re going and what time they expect to return. He also said to take a cell phone whenever possible, and to always bring a buddy when venturing out to go ice-fishing or any other ice-related activities, as ice-fishermen in the area can sometimes find themselves suddenly drifting away on a wayward piece of ice that has become dislodged from the shore.

“With all of the gravel pits, streams, rivers, and ponds in the area, you’re asking for trouble very quickly if you get out on some thin ice that’s partially covered in snow,” Werner said, noting that the department is capable of responding within minutes to areas near the station.