Here's the course description...
The air temperature was -4 degrees F, the water was 33.5. The cold water suits were nice and warm... It was actually more comfortable in the water than outside.
It was a lot of fun swimming with the ice. We did one training 'evolution' where we roped up in teams of five and went for a walk/crawl/swim around the thin ice patch in the middle of the lake. I lucked out and was first in line for my team, which meant that I got to do the ice breaking. I'd crawl out of the water onto a shelf of ice, the ice would break into big pieces, and I would sink into the water again. Then I'd swim along to the next bit of attached shelf.
I actually participated in an ice rescue. While most of the instructors wore cold water suits (although they did not go into the water), the lead instructor was wearing regular cold-weather clothing. While showing my team some technique, he broke through the thin ice and went into the water. He did not look happy.
Interestingly, while we had been taught not to rush right up to the victim, our first instincts were to do just that, but we stopped ourselves before we got too far. One of the students crawled out and extended an oar to the victim and the rest of us hauled them back. It happened so fast that the student who the instructor had just pushed out into the water on an inflatable ice rescue boat didn't even know the instructor had gone in.
When the lead instructor went to change clothes (think shivering drowned rat), the other instructors told us that in the five years the course had been offered, this was the first time someone who was not dressed properly and expecting to get wet had gone into the water.
Some interesting facts...
- 50-67 % of all drownings are alcohol related
- Males are 4 times more likely to drown than females
- Drowning is the second leading cause of 'unintentional injury deaths' for kids 0 - 14 years old (makes you wonder about the 'intentional injury deaths', doesn't it?)
- Volunteer firefighters last longer in cold water than professional firefighters due to percentage of body fat
- 60% of thin ice deaths involve a car, truck, snowmobile, or other vehicle being driven on the ice