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Lt. Phil Miller, center, of the Prince William Fire and Rescue Swift Water and Flood Rescue Team, briefs other team members about what they will be doing as they practice their ice rescue techniques Tuesday at Lake Montclair. It’s been several years since it’s been cold enough for the team members to practice their techniques and procedures under real-world, icy conditions.

Fire and Rescue Practices Ice Rescue Techniques in Frigid Water

Contributed by Prince William County

Lt. Phil Miller, center, of the Prince William Fire and Rescue Swift Water and Flood Rescue Team, briefs other team members about what they will be doing as they practice their ice rescue techniques Tuesday at Lake Montclair. It’s been several years since it’s been cold enough for the team members to practice their techniques and procedures under real-world, icy conditions.
Lt. Phil Miller, center, of the Prince William Fire and Rescue Swift Water and Flood Rescue Team, briefs other team members about what they will be doing as they practice their ice rescue techniques Tuesday at Lake Montclair. It’s been several years since it’s been cold enough for the team members to practice their techniques and procedures under real-world, icy conditions.

Prince William County’s Swift Water and Flood Rescue Team has a message for people in the community: stay off the ice because all ice in the area is dangerous.

Team members from Prince William Department of Fire and Rescue stations 517 and 507 recently went to Lake Montclair on a frigid Tuesday morning to practice ice rescue techniques in case their skills are ever needed.

Lt. Phil Miller, a swift water and ice rescue trainer, said people in the area should stay off the ice at all costs. “It never gets thick enough to play on around here. It’s never safe to be on the ice.”

The rescuers, who are equipped to work on frozen bodies of water, took the rare opportunity to practice and learn new skills on ice in a small cove of Lake Montclair. It was in that little cove where the trainers, who themselves trained in Pennsylvania, schooled other team members on how to use the tools, techniques and procedures of ice rescue in the frigid water.

“We haven’t had a class in four years, so we’re trying to get as many people as we can trained,” Miller said. “Who knows when we’ll have ice like this again? With this unusual cold snap, we’ve got real thick ice providing a perfect training environment.”

The training included drills that taught the trainees how to rescue themselves, as well as the techniques to rescue someone else. The trainees learned how to read the ice and keep each other safe with ropes and other specialized equipment.

“The training is invaluable in learning how to get yourself out of sticky situations, as well as going to get people out of sticky situations that they’re not prepared to be in,” said Lt. Chris Eddy of Station 517.

Eddy said people who fall through the ice have very little time. “The Coast Guard has the one, 1-10-1 rule. The first minute after you fall in the water, you’re going to have to be able to catch your breath and get yourself under control. You then have 10 minutes of functional movement and then one hour of survivability in the water. During those 10 minutes, you need to get yourself in a stable position where you’re not going to move and wait until someone gets there to help you.”

Eddy also stressed the importance of staying off the ice. “There’s no such thing as safe ice in Prince William, or Virginia, for that matter.”

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