NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – Preparedness is key for firefighters during a week of rising temperatures.
The North Liberty Fire Department knows ice will begin melting this week with temperatures scheduled to stay above freezing for most of the week. They said they're watching area waterways for potential ice rescues.
"We patrol over 20 miles of shoreline of the Coralville Lake as well as portions of the river," Cpt. Chris Kochanny said. "Then we have a lot of retention ponds in North Liberty we are responsible for as well."
Ice rescues are a big reality for the department. Its records show in the past five years, crews have conducted about two ice rescues each year.
Firefighters say people can test ice levels with a cordless drill. Cpt. Kochanny suggests ice should be between three and four inches to walk on. If the group has three or more people, he said the ice should be between six and seven inches thick. With each step, however, the ice levels can change.
"There are a lot of things that can impact the ice that people don't think about," said Lt. Travis Goedkin. "One of the things is the water fowl, geese and ducks, if they're sitting on top of the ice, their body temperature can actually impact the thickness of that ice in just that one spot. So if you're walking across the ice that can be a weak spot in the ice."
If someone should ever fall into the water, firefighters say to have someone else on the shore to call 911. If that person is alone, always carry a whistle to get someone's attention.
"It's important to take that first minute to remain calm and try and get yourself out of the water after that," said Firefighter Rob DuBay. "Once you get in the water, your body temperature is going to start dropping. Once it starts dropping below 98.6 degrees, then you start going into hypothermia."
The rescue team said people should never venture out onto the ice to rescue a friend or a pet. That creates a situation where there's another victim. The best thing to do is to stay on shore and throw out a rope. If the victim doesn't have a rope, jumper cables or typing jackets together could also work to pull someone to safety as emergency crews make their way to the scene.
So far, the North Liberty Fire Department has not had to rescue anyone who has fallen into an icy body of water this winter season. They hope that trend continues this year.