Five minutes - 300 seconds - is not a lot of time.
But for those who are in freezing cold water, that could be the amount of time they have before they are no longer able to help themselves.
"Cold water can affect you very rapidly," said Marshalltown Deputy Fire Chief Steve Edwards. "So we are likely going to have to go out there."
PHOTO COURTESY OF MARSHALLTOWN FIRE DEPARTMENT
Members of the Marshalltown Fire Department engage in ice rescue training using new dry suits purchased for such rescues. The new suits give rescuers more flexibility and control when in the water.
That means putting on a dry suit and walking or sliding out on the ice and may even mean getting into the water with the person being rescued.
To understand what rescuers may be up against, the fire department recently completed three days of training where all firefighters on all shifts got to experience what it was like to rescue someone in the water.
The firefighters braved the cold water using state-of-the-art dry suits, a new style the city recently purchased for rescue efforts.
Ice thickness guidelines
The following is the recommended minimum safe ice for certain activities and objects:
2 inches or less - STAY OFF
4 inches - Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5 inches - Snowmobile or ATV
8 to 12 inches - Car or small pickup
12 to 15 inches - Medium truck
Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
"The suits are more maneuverable, lighter weight and more flexible than the suits we are used to," Edwards said. "There's also a better feel in your hands with the newer suits."
In addition to the on-ice training, each crew also received three hours of classroom training where they learned about different types of ice and different rescue techniques.
"In some cases, the victim could be panicking and not working with the rescuer," Edwards said. "We need to know how to deal with that type of situation so one of our people isn't drowned while trying to rescue someone else."
Edwards said fishing is one of the biggest dangers. People who ice fish tend to spend long periods of time on the ice and may become complacent to the sounds of cracking and shifting ice.
Ice conditions can change rapidly from day to day, or even hour to hour, especially during this time of the year as the air temperature begins to recover and there are more days above freezing.
"There may be that temptation among ice fishermen to get one more day out on the ice and that ice may be marginal," Edwards said.
As with most types of training, Edwards said the key is to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
"Fortunately, we've never had to do an ice rescue," he said.
Contact Ken Black at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org