Total Immersion in Ice Rescue Training

Jan 30, 2019
Courtesy of: Bob Selfridge

“Train like it’s real” is a catchphrase of first responders when doing ice rescue drills, and the Barnegat Light Volunteer Fire Co. and some junior members were among crews immersing themselves in the bay off Harvey Cedars Sunday. The conditions were slushy, unlike the solid ice of January a year ago, and that lent its own learning experience.

“The ice is very soft and tough to navigate, so it takes some skill to not fall through; these were great conditions to train in,” said fire company training officer Bob Selfridge. “It’s easy to train on solid, thick ice.”

Selfridge attended also as captain of the Barnegat Light First Aid Squad. The High Point Volunteer Fire Co. from Harvey Cedars was the other squad out for the drill. They’ll be training next weekend as well.

Dave Voris, lieutenant of the Barnegat Light fire company, added that ice rescue training is an opportunity that the first responders take when they can.

“Whenever we get the bay with ice on it, we try and train on it,” Voris said.

From weather to ice conditions to the situation of the “victim,” ice rescue training is varied and presents “a lot of moving parts,” he noted.

That includes “getting on the survival suits, how to use all the tools of the trade, as well as when to use what tool to attempt a rescue: rescue sled, ARM-LOC, rope, long extension pole, etc.”

New Rescue Device

Locks Onto Victim

Selfridge said the training on Sunday used a rescue device called the ARM-LOC, which was invented by a woman in Minnesota  – “it auto inflates and locks onto the victim so they can’t slip off,” he described.

“It works very well; I’ve been using it in water rescues as well,” said Selfridge, also an ocean lifeguard with the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol. “There’s no chance of a victim losing grip in the waves.”

The ARM-LOC slides onto the victim’s forearm, and the rescue responder or the victim pulls the yellow lanyard that deploys and locks the device into place, eliminating the need for the victim to grasp a rope, as described by the maker, Water Rescue Innovations. It can also help float the victim when the victim pulls the device close to his or her chest.

“As the training officer in the fire company, I’m always looking for innovative solutions and training for our members,” Selfridge observed.

The junior members of the company, ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old, are a motivation for trainers and squad members such as himself, Selfridge noted. They will be attending fire school in Atlantic County starting in February.

— Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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