As weather changes, use caution on ice

Members of the Coast Guard and other local agencies take part in a joint training drill near the Lake Superior & Ishpeming ore dock in Marquette’s Upper Harbor Tuesday morning. The drill focused on ice rescue. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — The weather is starting to warm up a bit, and officials are advising residents to use caution and common sense when venturing out on the ice.

“Gather as much information as you can,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Terry Bailey. “Always dress appropriately.”

When responding to emergency situations, preparedness is key.

The U.S. Coast Guard recently paired up with the Marquette City Fire Department for a dual-agency training on ice rescues.

After some time in the classroom reviewing signals, search patterns, equipment, etc., participants headed to the Cinder Pond Marina for on-ice training.

Capt. Dean Mallos of the fire department said it’s important to have a clear plan and line of communication before an incident occurs.

“That’s why we train,” Mallos said. “You have to be ready to respond to emergency situations in a moment’s notice.”

Having multiple agencies train together also increases the odds of performing a rescue, instead of a recovery.

“As a stand-alone agency, you might not have all the equipment and manpower needed for a rescue scenario,” Mallos said. “Having that reinforcement helps us have more successful outcomes.”

Mallos advised residents to use common sense to avoid accidents.

“Know the ice conditions before you venture out, and be aware that conditions on Lake Superior can change very quickly,” he said. “Also let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.”

Following the acronym ICE — which stands for information, clothing and equipment — can also increase a person’s chance of survival, said Bailey.

“Wear as many layers as possible,” he said, adding that bright colors also help rescuers more easily spot a person on the ice or in the water.

Personal flotation devices are also important and can greatly decrease the chances of drowning if the ice does break.

Bailey also suggested small items people can carry in case of emergency.

Equipment to aid in safety can include whistles, flares, personal beacons, marine radios in case a cell phone loses reception or gets wet and screwdrivers or ice picks to help hoist yourself out of the water and up onto the ice.

“Although technically we can’t say don’t go out on the ice, we can make recommendations to help people stay as safe as possible,” Baily said. “The weather is starting to warm up, use caution, and use the resources available to you before you go out.”

Mallos said preparation and common sense is key.

“Be aware, and know the ice conditions before you venture out,” Mallow said.

Using the buddy system and letting friends and family know where you’re going and when you plan to return is also, important, he said.