PENDLETON — Like any professional, Ross Tappy said he likes to brush up on skills he might not use very often but are important when needed.
“It’s nice to have that refresher; that way you’re always at the top of your game,” Tappy said.
That’s especially true when a life could depend on it, which is why the Pendleton Fire Department — including seven-year firefighter Tappy — and Pendleton Emergency Ambulance conducted ice rescue training last week on the pond at Falls Park.
“It keeps us up-to-date on our training,” PFD Assistant Chief Chris Nodine said, explaining the department reviews how to respond to a call that someone has fallen through ice into the frigid water below.
“People tend to go out and try to ice fish and don’t realize the ice is not as thick as it should be,” Nodine said.
He said the department has all the equipment necessary to rescue someone in such a situation, but they have to practice the correct way for a team to use it.
Such rescues involve the use of a sled, ropes and coordination between team members.
“We’ve got to be prepared for the worst,” Nodine said.
About 20 firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians took park in the Monday, Jan. 6, training session.
Nodine said they practice getting out onto the ice and into the water with the sled and pulling a person out.
There are various types of rescues that occur in water and, when a call comes in, it’s up to the dispatcher to determine who to send out.
For instance, if it’s known that a person has fallen into the water and is conscious, the Pendleton agencies will respond. If a person has disappeared under the water, a special dive team from Anderson will be called in.
The EMTs are involved because once a person is rescued from water he or she must be treated for exposure to the freezing temperatures and water.
“That way they can have training on hypothermic protocols,” Nodine said.
Last week’s training lasted for about two hours.
The ice rescue training is on the regular practice schedule at this time of year, and most of the personnel attend every year, Nodine said.
The departments do other water training throughout the year, such as practicing water rescue in the Alvin D. Brown Memorial Swimming Pool or on ponds, including one out by Interstate 69.
With an ice rescue, Tappy said it takes a minimum of five people on the shore and two in the water, and there’s a method that takes coordination to effectively and efficiently get someone out of the water.
It’s a way that is likely to have the best result.
“It’s always good when we have a good outcome with a run, no matter what the type of run it is,” Tappy said.
Even with Tappy’s years of experience as a firefighter, four of which are with the PFD, he said it’s always good to practice.
“I’ve done it every year,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone through it.
“It’s nice to go over that — here’s where we keep the equipment, how you use it, how it’s deployed.”
He said at this point in his life, even without the review, he thinks he’d remember and be able to perform a good rescue, “but it’s nice to take that doubt away.”
Jake Gardner, a full-time firefighter at the Fishers Fire Department who volunteers with the Pendleton Fire Department, said with as many retention ponds and creeks as there are in the area, water rescue training is a necessity.
He said it’s good to do the annual training not only as refresher but also for any new members who join a department.
“It takes some time to learn what you’re doing,” Gardner said, noting there are some new members at the PFD this year. “Next year and the year after, they definitely will get more comfortable with it.”