With temperatures below freezing this week, deceiving and dangerous icy conditions are forming on ponds and lakes that make them unsafe to stand on or walk over. The Columbus Fire Department is prepared to conduct rescue missions in icy waters, but urges residents to stay away from ice-covered bodies of water to avoid falling through the ice.
Firefighters maintain ice rescue equipment on fire engines to ensure a fast and effective response. The equipment includes specialized ice-water rescue watercraft, suits for ice water exposure, ropes, hooks, poles and life vests. Firefighters also have completed training to use the equipment to ensure optimal survivability around the city’s 161 ponds and lakes.
However, Columbus Fire Chief Dave Allmon strongly recommends residents stay away from icy waters.
“There is no such thing as ‘safe’ ice,” Allmon said. “In a typical winter here, conditions are not cold enough long enough to produce ice solid enough for traversing. Our firefighters are well-trained and well-equipped to make rescues from icy waters, but the best idea is for everyone to stay off all ice-covered waters so that no one is harmed or in need of rescue.”
At least two recent area deaths have been attributed to icy waters — a 16-year-old boy died after falling into Terrace Lake in Columbus in December 2010, and a 6-year-old boy died after falling into an icy pond in Brown County in January 2012.
Mayor Brown made it her priority when taking office in January of last year to not go another winter without being well-prepared for an accident on one of the city’s many static bodies of water. In her first month in office, Mayor Brown sold the mayor’s city-owned SUV as a quick way to raise funds to purchase ice water rescue equipment for the City’s firefighters. A fire department in the suburbs of Cincinnati provided free training to all of the City’s firefighters.
Chief Allmon cautions parents and dog owners to never leave children or dogs unattended near icy waters. He encouraged parents to talk with their children about the dangers of going out on ice covered waters and how to respond if someone falls through the ice.
Residents should never go out on the ice to attempt a rescue. The first step in an ice-rescue emergency is to immediately call 911 for a person or even a dog. If Columbus firefighters are able to safely rescue a dog, they will.
“Our firefighters are well prepared and will respond to ice-water emergencies to save any person or pet dog,” Mayor Kristen Brown said. “Dogs are family members to many people, and we do not want our residents risking their safety by trying to rescue their dog themselves.”
Mayor Brown has instructed the City’s fire Department to assist other public safety agencies for ice water rescues outside the city limits. The Columbus Fire Department will train any Bartholomew County volunteer fire department ice-water rescue techniques. Columbus firefighters will also respond with surrounding agencies when a life-saving emergency exists.