Ice Rescue 101

During the course of his or her career, a police officer will be exposed to a wide variety of training topics. Marksmanship, self-defense, vehicle operations and first aid are but a few of the nearly endless number of subjects you are asked to master in the name of returning safely at the end of your shift. But how many of you have ever been trained in ice safety?

Ice? Yes, that is what I said, “ice.” I know. I can hear you asking “Why do I need ice safety training? I work in a patrol car.” But, ask yourself “Do I have any bodies of water in my patrol area?” I bet that very few of you can honestly say there are no ponds, streams or open springs nearby. If so, then you are 1/3 of the way to needing ice safety training. All you need for any body of water to become a potential hazard are the other 2/3s of the equation – cold weather, and someone who tries to venture onto the resulting ice.

Sooner or later the stars will align, the tiny park pond will freeze, some adventurous youngster will take a shortcut, and you will find yourself in the middle of a subzero rescue. If this happens and you find yourself first on the scene, you will quickly realize that there is little time to waste. This means waiting for the fire company or other trained rescuers will not be an option. If you are going to save the victim, you will need to act fast and possibly alone.

Ice RescueIf you work in a climate where ice is possible, I strongly suggest obtaining professional ice rescue training. However, if you find yourself in a situation where someone has fallen through the ice, maybe the following tips will allow both of you to go home safely.

Most of us have had basic water safety training at some point in our careers and the rules of ice rescue are very similar. The theory of “reach, throw, row, go” still applies with some simple adaptions. If at all possible, you want to avoid going onto the ice yourself. Since the victim has already fallen through, it is obvious that the ice is not safe to cross and trying to do so risks adding a second victim to the equation – YOU.

Reach or Throw

As with water rescue, the first step in ice rescue is to reach for the victim from shore. This can be done using any long, sturdy object such as a pole, branch or even a piece of lumber. If a ladder is available, simply slide it out toward the victim and, once they have taken hold of the far end, pull it back to shore and drag them to safety. However, one of the most useful items you can add to the endless amount of gear you have in your trunk is a simple length of rope. Even 50’ of rope can be easily stored and will be invaluable in either water or ice rescue scenarios.

Row or Go

If a shore based rescue is impossible, the worst thing you can do is attempt to simply walk out to the victim. Instead, try to locate a small boat and approach the victim by sliding it across the ice. If the ice does break, the boat will do what a boat does and float in the open water, allowing you to remain safe and continue the rescue. However, sometimes the worst option is the only option and you will find you have no other recourse but to go onto the ice. If you find this is your only option, you should lay flat and slide yourself slowly towards the victim. This will help distribute your weight and reduce the possibility of the ice breaking under it.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *