The teamwork and quick response of many firefighters is the key to successful rescue.

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Evanston firefighters spent three frigid days in February training at Lovelace Park pond, learning the skills necessary to conduct a surface ice or a cold-water rescue incident. 

These types of rescues are very specialized beyond the mission of providing fire-suppression and emergency medical services. The three shifts were taught pre-planning; rescuer and team safety; operation of specialized equipment and use of  personal protection equipment. 

Captains Glen Vanek and Paul Polep said there are unique problems associated with surface ice rescues, such as identifying the ice characteristics, operating the surface support equipment and recognizing and dealing with the victim’s situation – whether it is exhaustion, panic or hypothermia.

A RoundTable reporter who attended two training sessions observed the firefighters cutting through the ice on the pond and using poles and/or lines to rescue victims [firefighters] from the water. On Feb. 21, while the firefighters were in the midst of their training, an emergency call came in and some of the units immediately responded, returning later in the day to
complete their session.

Surface Ice Rescue Suit

For ice rescues, Evanston firefighters use the Mustang Ice Commander Ice Rescue Suit, a modular suit made of urethane-coated nylon that is completely waterproof. The suit has a watertight hood, integrated gloves and attached boots. A snap-in buoyancy liner provides flotation and thermal insulation that allows the user/wearer to be immersed for long periods of time in icy cold water and maintain physical and mental capabilities. The suit has a chest safety harness attachable to tether lines, awl pockets for storage, rubber gloves, reinforced knees and non-skid soles on the attached boots.  The firefighters practice putting on the suits throughout the year, the goal being to get into the suit in less than two minutes.  Captain Polep said two suits are kept in each vehicle so that, once the firefighters are notified, one can be changing while the other is driving. A floating bag with rope is also kept with the suits, as well as ice rescue poles. The poles are quite versatile, easy to store and transport and are inexpensive compared to the approximately $1,000 suits.