Due to the extremely cold temperatures and in turn, thick ice, thankfully, there has not been a need for any ice rescues on Malletts Bay in Colchester this year. But as things warm up, first responders want to be ready.
On a sunny, but cold Sunday in Colchester, firefighters suited up for a lesson in ice rescues.
“What we try to education them with is thin ice,” explained Michael Cannon, Colchester Technical Rescue Team Leader. “How to get themselves up and out of the ice, if they happen to fall through the ice and into the water and how to successfully try to get a victim out of the water."
Michael Cannon and his team, Colchester Technical Rescue, perform actual ice rescues every winter, especially on Malletts Bay.
The rescues have to be done quickly because in water that's at most 39 degrees, hypothermia can set in in just minutes.
“They start to lose all their fine motor skills and their dexterity with their arms and whatnot,” said Cannon.
Many of the ice-jumping firefighters are first timers, working towards their certificates in ice rescue.
They all seemed to enjoy their polar plunges. Some had suits that worked with them.
“I'm packed in here. But it's all for a purpose, to keep me warm as best as possible,” said Essex Town Fire Department Capt. Dave Sheeran.
“It was a little cold. The wind gets you, the wind definitely gets you but the water was fine,” said Ryan Ploof, Malletts Bay Volunteer Firefighter.
Others had suits that worked against them. “It's a sunny day out, not too bad. Just got a few drips, looks a lot worse than it actually is. The zippers and around the neck are leaky,” said Essex Town Volunteer Firefighter Peter Henry.
While not from the same unit, the Colchester, Malletts Bay and Essex Town firefighters practiced together.
Using ropes, perfecting techniques and hopefully, learning how to save lives.
“It's just to stay proficient and if there ever is an emergency in our local towns or cities we are able to go ahead and mitigate the problem,” said Capt. Sheeran.
As for tips for to avoid needing to be saved from icy waters, don't venture out alone.
And if you are alone, bring a flotation device and even an ice pick.