Coast Guard, local agencies conduct ice rescue training in Milwaukee

Crews from Coast Guard Station Milwaukee and fire and police departments from 10 surrounding communities, conduct ice rescue drills on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, March 8, 2015. Agencies are warning residents to use extreme caution on and near frozen waterways as warmer temperatures will pose safety concerns on Lake Michigan and inland rivers, streams and ponds. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Thomas Morrell)

Crews from Coast Guard Station Milwaukee and fire and police departments from 10 surrounding communities, conduct ice rescue drills on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, March 8, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Thomas Morrell)

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Coast Guard crews from Station Milwaukee conducted joint ice rescue training with multiple local fire and police departments in Milwaukee, Sunday.

The purpose of the training, held on Lake Michigan near Coast Guard Station Milwaukee, was for local agencies involved in ice rescue to practice techniques and procedures during scenarios based training on the ice.

Partnering agencies included fire departments from Milwaukee, Delafield, Oconomowoc, Mequon, Franklin, New Berlin, Hales Corner, Big Bend and St. Francis, along with members of the Milwaukee Police Department.

“These training sessions are vital to building partnerships and increasing communications with all local ice rescue responders,” said Chief Petty Officer Eric Hopperdietzel, officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Milwaukee.

The Coast Guard is urging people to use extreme caution on and near waterways ahead of sustained warmer temperatures that are expected to remain throughout the week.

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.

“Ice is very unpredictable and hard to tell if it’s safe,” Hopperdietzel added. “It slowly decays and may appear thick when actually it is extremely brittle and unsafe. The only absolute with ice safety this time of the year is to stay off the ice completely.”

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 near waterways are reminded to always keep them on a leash to prevent the pet from venturing out onto the ice and possibly falling through, or from jumping into the water.

Anyone who sees someone fall through the ice, or witnesses anyone in distress in the water or on the ice, should call 911 immediately.

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