Coast Guard conducts ice rescue training, urges caution as warm temperatures return

An ice-rescue team member from Coast Guard Station Grand Haven, Mich., and an air crew member hold the trail line as they prepare to receive the stokes litter from the air crew aboard a Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Traverse City, March 5, 2015. The air crew and the station crew trained together on the Grand River simulating a person falling through the ice and becoming unconscious. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Abigail Moore)

An ice-rescue team member from Coast Guard Station Grand Haven, Mich., and an air crew member hold the trail line as they prepare to receive the stokes litter from the air crew aboard a Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Traverse City, March 5, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Abigail Moore)

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – The Coast Guard is urging people to use extreme caution on and near waterways ahead of sustained warmer temperatures that are forecast to return beginning this weekend.

The above freezing-temperatures could pose safety concerns on Lake Michigan and inland rivers, streams and ponds that have become frozen during the past few weeks. Rising temperatures will cause recently-frozen waters to further melt and become weak.

Ice is unpredictable and the thickness can vary, even in small areas. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice. Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas since these signify thinner ice.

In addition, ice near the shore of a frozen lake may be unsafe and weaker because of shifting, expansion, and sunlight reflecting off the bottom.

The Coast Guard is also urging people to remain clear of shorelines, piers, jetties, rocks, walkways and jogging paths that may have become covered in layers of ice. Mother nature may have created winter wonderlands of interesting formations this winter, but people should not let their curiosities take a priority over safety.

People walking their dogs should always keep them on a leash to prevent the pet from falling or jumping into the water.

Coast Guard continues ice rescue training

Crews from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City and Coast Guard Station Grand Haven conducted joint ice rescue training on the Grand River near Grand Haven, Thursday. Simulating a person who had fallen through the ice, personnel responded from land and air to recover the “victim” from the water before placing him into basket and hoisting him up into the rescue helicopter.

The 1-10-1 Principle: 1 minute – 10 minutes – 1 hour

Everyone who enters cold water doesn’t drown, but research shows that many drowning incidents may be the result of cold shock response and cold incapacitation. In cold water drowning situations, if you survive the first minute, the cold will soon rob your muscles of their strength and dexterity. Even strong swimmers can experience swim failure after a few minutes.

When a cold water drowning situation begins, a person has about one minute to gain control of their breathing and 10 minutes or less of meaningful movement and muscle control to get themselves out of the water. Hypothermia may set in within one hour, but without a life jacket, the victim is likely to drown before that occurs.

Cold Water Kills

The Coast Guard and water safety experts say public education and preparedness may help prevent cold water drowning deaths. In addition to understanding the physiological effects of cold water, people need to be aware that the initial shock of entering the cold water can cause panic and gasping, resulting in a person inhaling water large mounts of water.

“Cold water is a very unforgiving environment,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Justin Olson, officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Grand Haven. “People need to know the dangers, know their limits, and be ready to take quick action in the case of an emergency.

The Coast Guard’s 9th District, which includes the Lake Michigan region, has 39 stations, two air stations, and eight cutters designated, trained and equipped for ice rescue operations.

“The Coast Guard and our partner agencies stand ready to help those in distress this winter, but it is the general public who take to the cold water or ice that needs to be the most ready,” said Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the 9th District.”

The public is advised to call 911 to report a person in the water.

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