Members of the Farmington Hills Fire Department complete yearly training on ice rescue. From the left are senior firefighter Stan Bailey, firefighters James Chesney and Todd Maki, and Sgt. Nick Hippler.

Members of the Farmington Hills Fire Department complete yearly training on ice rescue. From the left are senior firefighter Stan Bailey, firefighters James Chesney and Todd Maki, and Sgt. Nick Hippler.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills


Farmington Hills Fire Department conducts ice rescue training

By: Zachary Manning | Farmington Press | Published February 22, 2021

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FARMINGTON HILLS — “Approximately 60% of people requiring ice rescue were themselves attempting a rescue only minutes before,” Farmington Hills Fire Department Training Officer Lt. Jim Etzin said via a press release. “If the ice wasn’t strong enough to hold that person, it’s not going to hold you.  Do not go onto the ice to attempt a rescue yourself.”

As it has for the last 15-18 years, the Farmington Hills Fire Department has participated in its annual ice rescue training this year.

Though there aren’t many large bodies of water in Farmington Hills, there are several ponds and other areas where trouble could come into play. Fire Chief Jon Unruh said they don’t get many calls related to ice rescue, but the training is still important.

With a limited number of people in the community having the knowledge of what to do in these situations, Unruh said it’s good for his department to be there in case of emergency.

“We’ve always made sure that we’ve updated our rescue equipment, the suits and all the ropes,” Unruh said. “This time of year is a great time in which to refresh our staff with the utilization of it.”

While the best thing to do is to avoid suspect areas and be aware of all surroundings, there are several tips to keep in mind when faced with a troubling situation.

If someone in a group of people falls through the ice, immediately call 911. While it is natural instinct to attempt a rescue, it can lead to more dangerous circumstances.

Unruh said his team can be on the scene and in the water performing a rescue within 10 minutes of the initial call, and he advises bystanders to continue communicating with the person in the water.

Should a person be alone and in the water, there are also tips and tricks to try and get out while waiting for rescuers to arrive.

The best way for endangered individuals to try to get out is to kick their feet as hard as they can and thrust themselves on top of the ice. After getting out, it is smart to find a safe location and still call 911 to the scene for a health check.

All 105 of the department’s firefighters, paramedics and EMTs receive the training annually. They learn about the characteristics of ice formations and complete hands-on training that teaches them how to medically manage emergencies, including cold-water drowning, frostbite and hypothermia.

The department attends virtual lectures, and participants are put through several training sessions at Novi’s Lakeshore Park. Personnel wear ice rescue suits, use specialized equipment and take part in simulations.

For more information, call the Fire Department at (248) 871-2800.

“The classroom portion of it allows us to go ahead and look at the different protocols, treatments and different options for us on how to treat somebody that’s been exposed to the ice-cold water, hypothermia,” Unruh said. “Going out and actually climbing in the suits allows for us to have that muscle memory of how to don those suits quickly and efficiently.”

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