LETHBRIDGE - Members from Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services held some ice rescue training exercises at Henderson Lake on Wednesday, Feb. 7, to display how they would react when facing an emergency.
Captain Stan Colenutt was one of the members on hand to take part in the training and explained what the Fire Department was looking to accomplish.
"We're here to do our annual ice rescue training to get our members up to speed on the latest techniques we would use in case of a real emergency where someone was submersed in the ice during winter," Colenutt said.
Members donned all of the necessary gear, in an attempt to try to simulate conditions as close to real time as they can.
Each member that's out on the ice had an opportunity to put on a yellow suit, known as a Mustang Survival suit.
"I can stay in the water for up to six hours, possibly eight depending on the circumstances," Colenutt continued. "I think it's about -20 degrees here this morning and I'm perfectly comfortable."
Different phases of rescue, types of rescue, as well as both self rescue and of different individuals were simulated by the emergency responders.
Colenutt says they've got some great in-house instructors, so they're a well-equipped water rescue team.
When asked about how much ice rescue they've had to do in Lethbridge this year, Colenutt responded that the main increase they've seen predominately revolves around pet rescues.
"Some people are under the assumption that we don't rescue dogs, we definitely rescue dogs. If we don't, we could see the owners attempting to rescue them and then we have to come and rescue the owners, so we don't want that. If you are out and something happens, where a dog or any pet ends up in a difficult situation in water, call 9-1-1 because we will come," Colenutt stated.
With a number of bodies of water in Lethbridge, lots of subdivisions having their own ponds and Henderson Lake where the training took place, Colenutt says there's a lot of opportunities for people to get out onto ice in the city.
"Right now, I think we're close to 11 inches of ice depth, and I think the City of Lethbridge needs 12 inches for ice to be considered safe for public use. We're kind of close to that, but we still see people out on the ice fishing or skating and the city doesn't promote that as safe until it's consistently measured at 12 inches," Colenutt said.
A number of techniques were used, including self rescue techniques, and support techniques where some members were coached along to try and help them get out of the ice themselves.
"The water in this temperature, if you were to be submerged, you probably have about 60 seconds to stay conscious," he continued. "You'll start to hyperventilate to a rate of about 60 ventilations per minute, and those aren't little puff ventilations either."
Colenutt stressed those are full ventilations, where someone is blowing every bit of air in and out of their lungs 60 times a minute.
"It's quite strenuous, and these people lose their strength and cognitive functions very quickly. Very often in that first minute they end up submerged, and if someone is submerged we operate with a 90-minute rescue window to get them out and perform life-saving treatment on them," Colenutt said, adding they've had rescues in Canada where people live completely normal lives after having been successfully resuscitated after 90 minutes submerged.
The importance of staying on top of this training is such that it's something Colenutt says they work on everyday.
"We have various aspects of training that we are involved in, and the department has numerous teams that help the citizens of Lethbridge. In the spring and fall is when we tend to use this type of training most often because we have freezing and thawing of the ice. When we're dealing with ice that's 10 or 11 inches thick it's not so much of an issue, though with the chinooks we experience here in Lethbridge that can complicate things," Colenutt said.
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