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Above and Beyond: Island firefighters prepare for ice rescue emergencies

•Taken from the Feb. 13 Islandwide Dispatch

Sat, Feb 21st 2015 02:30 am

By Ray Pauley

Public Information Officer

Grand Island Fire Co.

Being "surrounded" by the Niagara River is nothing new to Grand Islanders, but freezing winter temps pose unique problems for fire company rescue personnel handling an offshore emergency, according to Grand Island Fire Chief Matt Osinski.  

Because ice fishermen, kids, pets, etc., happen to venture onto shore ice at this time of the year, mishaps will occur and the GIFC must be prepared to execute a quick response rescue at a moments notice. Accordingly, on Saturday, Feb. 7, drill instructors Jordain Benoit and Sean O'Donnell conducted a special ice rescue drill at Beaver Island State Park.

Rescue teams were outfitted with Mustang Ice Commander suits, which are waterproof and insulated to protect responders from extreme cold water temps for extended periods of time. An RDC Rapid Deployment Craft was then used to rescue a simulated ice floe victim. These stress-resistant boats can be transported to just about any shoreline site, where inflation and launching is accomplished within five minutes or so. The RDC has open ends for easy access to victims and is tied off to shore by safety rope to help facilitate retrieval efforts.      

A successful practice run (drill) reflects how tough and reliable this specialized equipment is, and the expanded life saving capabilities available to your GIFC volunteers, Osinski said.

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