Henrico dive team practice ice rescues

By Yvette Yeon - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Frigid temperatures could be dangerous especially around iced up rivers, lakes, and ponds. The Henrico Search-Rescue Dive Team is on heightened alert, during these extreme weather conditions and they're warning you to keep kids from playing on the ice.

Twice a year, during the coldest days in winter, search and rescue divers gear up for a simulated ice rescue; making sure they are fully prepared for a real life or death situation.

"Pretty much anytime somebody's in the water, it's almost a guarantee we gotta go get them," said Alvin Critzer, Henrico firefighter.

"We want to be ready for any type of emergency," said Co-Captain Daniel Schwartz, Henrico Search-Rescue Dive Team.

It may not happen often, but anyone especially a child can fall through the ice in a moment, and the situation can quickly turn deadly.

"We're talking minutes," said Schwartz.

The ice where they are training is about an inch and a half thick. Captain Schwartz says in Virginia the ice never gets thick enough to hold a human much less a pet.

"You're first initial shock is you lose your breath. You can't catch a breath then all of a sudden the anxiety builds up. Then you try to breathe faster. You don't breathe correctly, and then you lose oxygen," he said.

And once you lose oxygen, you become disoriented.

"It would definitely be scary, and it's an instant shock. A way to describe it would be like ten thousand needles piercing you all at once," Critzer said.

Geared up in a dry suit, the rescuer playing the victim in training can withstand the chilling temperatures, but in regular clothes the water is be unbearable.

"Cold water, it takes the heat away 20 times faster than wind," said Schwartz.

The most important advice rescuers give is, never rush to follow a fallen person into the water. You'll most likely end up needing rescuing too. To be safe...just avoid playing on the ice.

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