NewsChannel5 reporter goes into freezing waters during Parma ice rescue training

PARMA, Ohio - This isn't exactly the type of weather that makes you want to be outside, but it's absolutely crucial for firefighters training in an ice-water rescue.

On Wednesday, our friends at the Parma Fire Department got to show me exactly how and why it's done.

"In northeastern Ohio, I mean, there's ponds everywhere or lakes. Ice freezes and kids do it all the time; people do it all the time.  There's always the unsafe factor of just going out in the ice," said Parma Fire spokesperson, Doug Turner. 

In the background, you could hear the demonstration. A person waiting in ice wearing a special suit for firefighters of course, screamed, "Help!  I'm Slipping!"

Turner told NewsChannel5 there's at least 15 lakes in the city of Parma alone. With Lake Erie as a popular destination for ice fishermen, fire departments across northeast Ohio have to be ready at the drop of a hat in case someone falls through, Turner said.

"For the whole department, we go through the training annually," said Parma Firefighter and ice rescue instructor Kurt Just. 

Only this time around, this NewsChannel5 reporter got to do it too, zipping up in that special waterproof, insulated suit each Parma fire truck is equipped with, it was my turn to be rescued.

The method of attack: Firefighters went around me and spread their weight. That's the same method they tell people to use if they're stuck on the ice.

"Out of the ice and if you hear it cracking, the first thing you can do is get down on your knees and lay flat, it's a bigger area of surface to fall through so it'll keep you safer," Turner said.

It may have been warmer in the water than it was outside Wednesday, but 30 degree-waters can still do damage. Hence the harness clipped around me when the firefighter finally reached me. 

Just said for victims waiting in the freezing water too long, "The reason why they're not self-rescuing is probably because the cold has sapped everything out of them. They're doing everything they can just to hang on to that ice."

Luckily for me, the suit actually kept me pretty warm.  It just squeezed my neck and face so hard I could barely look down. 

"Am I real heavy?" I shouted out to firefighters, since it took four to pull me out. They nicely answered "No. Thank you!"

But as they pulled me out of the water they explained each training is different depending on what the ice is like or how thick it is. Bottom line, you want to try and save yourself by staying off of the ice.

"Don't use ice as shortcuts; don't make cuts across ponds to go home. When you're sledding, be weary of where the ponds are. Don't shoot out on ponds. That happens quite often… That's when you'll break though as soon as you bring yourself up in an upright position," Just said.

Although what happened Wednesday was just training, the tips Parma's fire department gave are very real and very relevant as we move through the winter months.

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