Firefighters from Springfield practiced ice rescues at Van Horn Park Pond on Monday morning.
Emergency responders said it only takes minutes for the body to shut down in icy waters. Operations Supervisor Patrick Leonardo from American Medical Response said blood vessels in arms and legs constrict to keep blood flowing to internal organs.The heart beats slower and breathing becomes fast and shallow. The body starts to shiver to regain lost heat. There can also be shock, confusion and aggravation. The body suffers from hypothermia at 95.0°F.
Firefighters said a majority of their calls were for children playing on the ice, but they had very few rescues. Some dogs and deer have been rescued in recent years.
Rivers and other moving bodies of water were the most dangerous according to Dennis Leger, aide to Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant. He said unlike a pond or lake, the current of a river or stream will pull victims under water.
First responders cautioned people to stay away from a pet or person who has fallen through ice and call 911 immediately. They also cautioned against warming a victim up to quickly. Just like the sudden cold, warming up too quickly can also put the body into shock.
Firefighters wear special suits to keep them warm and dry during rescues. Leger said the technology has improved dramatically in past years. He said in years past firefighters had no special clothing except their firefighting gear and aluminum ladders. Firefighters said their suits were similar to those used as emergency gear by sailors in the north Atlantic. They said they could stay warm and afloat for hours. They also used a special sled to distribute weight and help them float if the ice breaks under their weight.
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