Cudahy Fire Dept. conducts ice rescue training

CUDAHY (WITI) -- When it comes to an emergency, timing is everything. Just a few minutes can be the difference between life and death. That's especially true when it comes to rescuing someone from a frozen pond.

When you sink into sub-zero water, it becomes harder to breathe, and your muscles get weak. Shock begins to set in.

"The natural tendency for somebody is to gravitate towards their rescuer and that person might grab your hair, poke you in the eyes, make it difficult for you to do the rescue," Battalion Chief Robert Schmidt said.

Cudahy firefighters were on the pond at Sheridan Park training for ice rescues on Wednesday, February 4th.

While another team anchors, the rescuers on shore worked to pull the victim out.

"If they go below the water, that's a dive team evolution and that takes a longer period of time to bring the resources in," Schmidt said.

Schmidt says emergency responders wear dry suits, which act as a flotation device.

"We want to be there next to that person because these suits are going to save their lives," Schmidt said.

"We're talking minutes in the cold environment like this -- with the wind and the cold water, it zaps your energy right away," Battalion Chief Gary Posda said.

Which turns into a life-threatening situation.

"Depending on your age and stuff it really could be minutes," Posda said.

But they practice and repeat -- building confidence not only in their equipment, but themselves.

"Then it allows you to focus on the skills. That way, there's nothing that they really have to do except for focus on the rescue itself," Schmidt said.

It is important if you're going to be out on the ice to be with a group of friends.

Cudahy firefighters say you should also let people know where you're at beforehand.

If you do fall in, you have to scream as loud as you can -- but also try your best to stay calm.