First responders offer ice safety tips as SD prepares for an unseasonably warm week

RCFD offers ice safety tipsRAPID CITY, S.D. — Freezing temperatures at the start of January assisted in ice production, but with warm temperatures ahead, the ice quality may change.

“The warmer temperatures and then into a cooler temperature will kind of put a gray layer of ice in between some good clear ice,” explains Captain Keith Trojanowski with the Rapid City Fire Department.  “As you move or work in that environment, you can break chunks of ice out and see freeze-thaw layers. Typically what will happen is you’ll get this cloudy layer of ice kind of built up.”

So, the ice could be extra dicey in the coming days and Trojanowski says that no ice is 100 percent safe. There is a minimum depth though that can be considered okay to walk out on.

“We’re looking for a minimum of about four inches of ice and that’s good clear ice to get onto,” Trojanowski adds. “When we’re out there we want to make sure that as we’re proceeding on the ice, we can have changes in depth, so we’re checking frequently.”

Even with sufficient thickness, you’ll want to take some safety tools.

“You should have a whistle, ice-alls (or ice picks) and a PFD, and somebody that knows where you are,” says Trojanowski.

Then, if you do end up in troubled waters, get help.

“If you’re in a situation where you’re trying to do a self rescue, it’s best to stay out of it like pet rescue. Call 911. If you have a way to reach or throw an object to them, that’s going to be our best option until EMS arrives or fire arrives, that have the proper training and gear to get into that environment,” Trojanowski explains.

With yearly training and the right equipment, help will be on the way.

“This is a thermal insulated neoprene suit that we wear,” says Trojanowski as he demonstrates his equipment. “It’s waterproof and keeps us warm while we’re in the environment. It has enough flotation to keep me afloat. We wear a PFD over the top of it at times.”

Luckily, agencies across the region have first responders trained for these exact incidents.

“They are not frequent, but obviously when a person is in the water, they need assistance immediately and if they don’t receive it, they could be in peril so we need to respond,” says Captain Justin Lena with the Johnson Siding Volunteer Fire Department. 

It’s often the readiness of many agencies that save lives when adventures do go awry.

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