Cold Water Rescue with Brant Beckman

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Cold water rescues look difficult, because they are.

How do I know this? I was invited to test the waters myself – and it was a cold dose of reality.

Rapid City Fire Department has been training this week at Canyon Lake Park for cold water rescues.

If you saw them working this week, you probably wondered a few things:

Aren’t they freezing?

Do those suits actually keep you dry?

Do the geese attack you if you get too close?

My curiosity got the better of me, and the Rapid City Fire Department gave me the opportunity to suit up, and learn the ropes on cold water rescue training.

First step is putting on a specially designed suit that is designed to keep you dry. Some call it the “Gumby Suit”.

“The suits are amazing, having been in an ice rescue where I didn’t have the benefit of having a suit and I got into the water and got cold, I can tell you how much I appreciate these suits,” said Lt. Jim Bussell, RCFD.

Next, is learning the rules of the ice- commands from your team leader and understanding the limits of your equipment. Commands are kept simple and direct. This is to keep rescuers focused during what can be intense operations.

“What you don’t have out here today is the human element where you have a hysterical victim, where you have hysterical bystanders, and just a lot of chaos going on,” said Lt. Bussell. “That’s just one thing we just can’t recreate. With our skills, if we just make it muscle memory and practice over and over and over – when we do have that chaos everything is just second nature.”

As I entered the water I prepared myself mentally and physically to be shocked by cold, only to find that the suits not only kept me warm and dry, but also afloat.

There are challenges, however. The suits are cumbersome and can get in the way. The rope can become tangled, causing a dangerous situation for both the rescuer and the victim.

Ice is no joke. It’s tough to work on, let alone walk on, and you have the added element of trying to potentially save someone’s life. But that’s why the Rapid City Fire Department is out here practicing.

So they’re ready to answer that call to action.


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