First Responders Hold Ice Rescue Drill

Pictured are some of the members of the Big Dip in Dunkirk. From left are Fire Chief Burl Swanson, Don Emhartt, First Assistant Chief Randy Edwards, David Gustafson, Jeff Hansen, John Johnston and Jeff Molnar, assistant chief from Bemus Point. Photo by Gene Pauszek

DUNKIRK — The was a lot of excitement taking place Saturday morning when multiple rescue units converged on various parts of the Dunkirk Harbor for a planned rescue drill.

The event, known as the Big Dip, saw members of the Sheriff’s Department, Dunkirk, Hartfield, Dewittville and Maple Springs fire departments, Chautauqua County Water Emergency Team, the Exempt Dunkirk Fire Department and the Bemus Point Cold Water rescue team all getting in on the action.

Checking the Dunkirk boat launch area, two rescue boat arrived before 10 a.m. The bright yellow craft, a Hoover Guard 700 from the Dewittville Fire Department, was chosen for the work detail. The other boat from Bemus Point is more like a boat that you would see traveling in the Florida Everglades.

Burl Swanson, Dewittville fire chief, took the time to answer questions. The most important message the crew is delivering is be safe. They encourage people to enjoy ice fishing, but urge fishermen to wear a personal flotation device or life jacket when they go out on the water. It can help save one’s life. The crew also encourages ice fishermen to carry ice picks or a pair of long screwdrivers, to use to pull themselves out of the water and back onto the ice if they do fall in. The bright yellow suits that the operators of the rescue craft are wearing are called a Stearns Cold Water Rescue Suit and can keep the wearer comfortable for over an hour, even in freezing cold water.

When someone does fall through the ice, the emergency medical service is alerted to take over once the victim is returned to shore. The use of alcohol is not advised and is dangerous. Instead the crew will gently apply hot packs to the pressure point areas like underarms, groin and neck area to encourage blood circulation, while they will get victims into a warm environment. The victims are handled gently to prevent possible cardiac arrest or other problems.

There were two other teams gathered at the west end of the harbor by the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club and Barts Cove. The conservation club group engaged in actual water immersion in the safe suits. Afterwards the entire group was invited to the Conservation Club for lunch.

Swanson also said ice fishermen should avoid areas of running water, like the mouths of creeks. Most of the creek mouths are currently open at Chautauqua Lake.