The Ottumwa Courier


January 10, 2013

Ottumwa firefighters fall through ice to learn rescue techniques

OTTUMWA — While people don’t fall through the ice very often in Ottumwa, firefighters make sure they’re trained on the latest techniques to get someone out safely.

Firefighter Chris Cale instructed a group of firefighters on how to rescue a person who has fallen through the ice Wednesday afternoon at Ottumwa Park.

Firefighter Rich Damm said the firefighters do ice rescue training every chance they get during the winter.

Fortunately, he said, the department doesn’t get many calls of people falling through the ice.

“Most of the time we see people ice fishing in pairs, though not right next to each other,” Damm said. “It’s dangerous to go by themselves.”

Thankfully in Ottumwa Park, a lot of traffic bypasses the pond on Wapello Street, and drivers could likely see if someone was in trouble, Damm said, but on rural or farm ponds, that’s not the case.

“It’s a big safety factor a lot of people take for granted,” he said. “They think, ‘It’ll never happen to me.’”

He said no matter how thick you think the ice is, you should always make sure it’s safe. Better yet, said Capt. Pat Short, just stay off the ice.

Ottumwa’s ponds are safer, Damm said, because there isn’t a current that could push a victim under and trap them beneath the ice. But those who like to ice fish on the Des Moines River should be more concerned, since the fast-moving currents can be more dangerous.

“We always send out a pair of rescuers, with two on standby on shore,  and the rest will help pull on the rope and are ready with blankets, cots and backboards,” Damm said.

If the firefighters have 10 people on the ground, two on standby and two rescuing the victim, “that’s all the hands we should need,” he said.

Hypothermia happens quickly, even in the warmer weather Ottumwa has enjoyed lately, he said.

“Even if the water temperature is 90 degrees, that’s still below your body’s temperature of 98.6 degrees,” he said.

And in the water on Wednesday, even though it was a warm winter day outside, a victim who is only in regular clothes would have succumbed to hypothermia quickly.

“Days like this are deceitful,” Short said.

The firefighters go through the ice rescue training fairly slowly, making sure they understand every step of the process.

“But on the actual scene everything seems to move 10 times faster,” Short said.

And during a house fire, the firefighters are able to communicate with radios.

“But here it’s just hand signals,” Damm said, since sometimes the victim is far from shore and yelling out instructions could be misconstrued.

A firefighter who is rescuing a victim will tap his own head to signal the firefighters on shore to begin pulling the rope.

While anyone who falls through the ice will likely panic, Short said it’s important to try to stay as calm as possible.

“The more energy you expel, the faster you’ll tire out,” he said.

And Damm said the victim should try as hard as possible to not go under the ice, because any current could push you under and down the river and you will be unable to find the hole where you fell through.

“Let someone know where you’re at, be with someone, use a cane or stick to pound on the ice and wear a life jacket,” he said.

Text Only
  • City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar

    April 15, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

  • 0415 Right side up monster truck pic Nice driver --- mean machine OTTUMWA --- Drivers sat at one end of their vehicles during the "pit party," meeting fans and signing autographs before the motorsport and monster truck exhibition at Bridge View Center this weekend. Monster truck driver Orville Hill let kids --- and

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0415 OTT Composting ethical pic Recycling in a garden OTTUMWA --- Parents will tell you: They hate to see kids waste food. A gardner named Scott Koepke feels the same way. “First, let’s get our food to people who are going to eat it,” he said. “It hurts me to see kids in the schools throw away an entire

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0412 OTT Pothole color photo -T -M [Duplicate] A bumper crop of potholes OTTUMWA — The nice weather has been putting the bad roads on display. Officials say good: It gives us a chance to fix them. “Every city is going through the same thing,” said Larry Seals, Ottumwa Public Works director. “It has been an unusual winter

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home in a tent OTTUMWA -- As people live without shelter, they become desperate finding a place to sleep. The situation impacts more than just the community's homeless. "There is nowhere to put people who are homeless," said Mary Margaret Butler. "Nowhere." Ottumwa

    April 11, 2014

  • 0412 OTT Martha Speaks color photo -T -M Ottumwa children visited by cartoon star OTTUMWA — Iowa Public Television is celebrating its 45-year anniversary this year by helping communities like Ottumwa educate young children before they get into a school setting. One of the programs they are using to help reach out to children is by

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • United Way expanding on Corporate Community Garden OTTUMWA — The United Way of Wapello County created its Corporate Community Garden last year as a way to donate locally grown food to community members in need, and after a successful first year, it's hoping to expand the garden’s impact in its second

    April 11, 2014

  • City Council to discuss several property sales OTTUMWA -- The Ottumwa City Council will meet Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall for its second and final regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included on the agenda for the evening, among various other items, are several public hearings on t

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers wanted for playground construction OTTUMWA — Wildwood Park in Ottumwa is going to be the recipient of some rather significant playground upgrades in the near future, but in order for the construction of the new equipment to be free for taxpayers, there has to be enough volunteer power

    April 10, 2014

AP National