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Grand Haven Coast Guard performs simulated ice rescue in the Grand River

GRAND HAVEN, MI -- The Grand Haven Coast Guard and other local emergency responders demonstrated an ice rescue at Chinook Pier on Tuesday morning. By Jonathan Stoner | jstoner@mlive.com Photo Credit: Ariana van den Akker | avandena@mlive.com

Chief Petty Officer Eric Koch of Sector Field Office Grand Haven lefts off a smoke flare after he fell into the ice during the Coast Guard's ice rescue demonstration near Chinook Pier in Grand Haven Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The Coast Guard simulated an ice fishing accident and showed ways to get out of the ice yourself and then did several mock-rescues using different techniques. Coast Guard demonstrates ice rescue techniques in Grand Haven on February 12, 2013.

The simulation was an ice fishing accident involving a person falling through the ice and being helped by a four-person emergency response crew. Chief Petty Officer Eric Koch of the Grand Haven Coast Guard, who has been doing ice rescue demonstrations for 17 years, played the role of the fisherman.

“I volunteered for this believe it or not,” said Koch, who has been doing these ice rescue demonstrations for 17 years. “It’s a good time.”

Wearing a life jacket over a dry suit with several layers of insulation underneath, he went out onto thin ice and fell into the 34 degree water. He showed various self-help techniques that people can use in these situations to help save themselves.

One of the ways was to use awls, which are like screwdrivers, that he used to dig into the ice and pull himself out.

He also shouted, waved his hands, blew his whistle and lit a handheld signal flare as well as a red smoke flare to call for help. Then the four-person Grand Haven Coast Guard crew mobilized to showcase several different techniques for conducting a cold water rescue.

Some of the methods shown to pull Koch out of the water included using a body hook or “shepherd’s crook,” a sling, a rescue sled and an inflatable skiff.

Sgt. Cal Keuning of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Marine Division brought an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) submersible that can be used for underwater search and rescue operations.

According to Commander Sean Brady of the Grand Haven Coast Guard, the demonstration was a way for the Grand Haven Coast Guard to show off what they learned in their annual ice rescue standardization training.

“All of our stations are trained for how to respond in cold water environments,” Brady said.

But he made the point that of the half dozen rescues that the Coast Guard has been involved with this winter, the majority of the time it was civilians who were the first ones to respond.

“In most cases it was a Good Samaritan who was the first responder to rescue the person,” Brady said.

Since this is the case, the Coast Guard stresses that “preparation is the key to survival” for people who plan on venturing out on the ice in the winter.

Brady said to “plan on falling through the ice,” which means it is essential for people to take the proper safety precautions when participating in their favorite winter recreational activities.

“We encourage people to go out,” said Brady. “If you enjoy ice fishing by all means go out and do it. We just want to make sure you do it safely. Part of the reason we’re in the Coast Guard is because we like being out on the water.”

At the public demonstration, the Coast Guard officials continued to reiterate the acronym I.C.E. several times as a reminder for people going out on the water. It stands for:

Intelligence – which entails filing a trip plan, knowing the weather and ice conditions of the area where you are going and how to call for help. A component of being wise when getting out on the water is “the buddy system” to ensure that no one goes out alone.

Clothing - having the proper attire can save lives since hypothermia is the leading cause of death in cold water accidents.

Equipment - two awls (ice picks) or screwdrivers, whistles or other types of noise makers, flares, and a cell phone or a marine band radio in a waterproof container are all recommended.

This Article was reprinted fromMLive.Com

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Grand Haven Coast Guard performs simulated ice rescue