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January 24, 2012
By Jennifer Grigg


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Jan. 24, 2012 – The first part of our course began Friday night with a group of 12 victims, (oops – I mean learners) and two instructors in attendance. This was the theory portion of our training and it involved watching a PowerPoint presentation (I can hear you all groaning, but it wasn’t that bad) and practising all of the required knots (that beloved family of figure eight knots and then some . . . 12 in total, if I remember correctly. Or maybe it was only 11 – the 12th one was probably just the one in my stomach over not really knowing what I had gotten myself in to!).

Jan. 24, 2012 – The first part of our course began Friday night with a group of 12 victims, (oops – I mean learners) and two instructors in attendance. This was the theory portion of our training and it involved watching a PowerPoint presentation (I can hear you all groaning, but it wasn’t that bad) and practising all of the required knots (that beloved family of figure eight knots and then some . . . 12 in total, if I remember correctly. Or maybe it was only 11 – the 12th one was probably just the one in my stomach over not really knowing what I had gotten myself in to!). The instructors were so awesome; they even let us try tying a figure eight on a bight in a bucket of ice-filled freezing cold water! What fun!!

All kidding aside, the videos that we watched as part of the PowerPoint presentation were some that I guarantee will stay with me forever. I had seen some of the footage before when I did the dive rescue course (the course we originally trained under years ago) and felt the same sense of shock and disbelief watching them this time – the only difference being I’m a mom to two daughters now, so it hit home on an even deeper level.

It really is amazing what the body can do on its own to preserve itself when immersed in cold water, however, as any member of a fire department that does ice water rescue knows, it can only do so much for so long. There is a time limit and our hope is that we can get there before that time runs out.

Something else I took away from Friday night was that there’s something known as the 1-10-1 rule, and it means that once you’ve gone into cold water, you have one minute to catch your breath and calm yourself down, you then have 10 minutes of meaningful movement before your fingers, arms and legs are ineffective, and then approximately one hour before becoming unconscious due to hypothermia.

You can read more about it and the research done by Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht (“Professor Popsicle”) on the Cold Water Boot Camp website: http://www.coldwaterbootcamp.com/pages/1_10_60v2.html. The videos are fascinating and I highly recommend watching them.

I also learned that the key to surviving in cold water is wearing your PFD, because the goal is to keep your face and head out of the water until you can self-rescue or get rescued. There are many people out there who think they don’t need to wear one because they can swim, but if you’re immersed in cold water, that PFD may be the one thing that will save your life.

I personally found the Friday night theory portion of the course incredibly effective and a powerful reminder that ice-water rescue isn’t about just getting in, getting the victim and getting out. There are many variables that come into play (as with any rescue situation) but with the added risk of being on ice that could potentially give way at any time. Despite the fact that rescuers will have the proper PPE on to perform the rescue (immersion suits, PFDs, helmets, etc.), an unexpected plunge into the cold water by any or all of the team further complicates any rescue attempt.

This is precisely why we practise, train, learn and adopt new techniques, so that when the unexpected happens to someone out on the ice or in the water, we have the tools and skills to get them to safety.

Why else would someone who is always cold sign up for an ice-water rescue course?!

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