SANDY HOOK, NJ – Members of three Bayshore region Fire and EMS organizations put a different spin on winter polar plunges by spending much of Saturday training for disasters on the ice.
The Atlantic Highlands First Aid Squad, Keyport First Aid and the Sandy Hook Fire Department braved below-freezing temperatures and icy-cold waters to prepare for emergency operations on or near ice.
“Training for an ice rescue is a small, but vital part of the mission of the AHFAS,” said Tom Hayden, captain of the AHFAS. “Our members need to be prepared to handle situations that can occur in the harbor during the winter months.”
AHFAS 2nd lieutenant Bill Mount (l) helps guide a participant in an ice rescue drill through the steps of aiding a victim.
Before nearing the ice-covered portion of the Navesink River, AHFAS vice president Jerry Pandolfo and Keyport First Aid chief Ken Krohe presented an awareness level course on ice rescue tools, techniques and safety guidelines. SHFD chief Tim Regan also discussed ice rescue equipment recently acquired by his department.
Drill participants then lined an area of the frozen shoreline to put those skills into play. AHFAS 2nd lieutenant Bill Mount and AHFAS member Tom Pagnotta played victims while others ventured their way out onto the ice to practice reaching and eventually rescuing them. Along the way, each trained with a variety of ice rescue tools, as well as equipment to assure the rescuers were safe, too.
AHFAS vice president Jerry Pandolfo (far right) offers rescue techniques before drill participants head out onto the ice.
Pandolfo said the AHFAS has been involved with ice rescue training since 1998.
Keyport First Aid and Atlantic Highlands First Aid have been working together on their ice rescue programs for more than a decade and usually team for at least one large-scale ice rescue drill a year. Last year, the drill was held in the Atlantic Highlands Harbor.
This year marked the first time the two all-volunteer squads in the Bayshore region partnered with the Sandy Hook Fire Department on an annual ice rescue drill.
The area where the drill was held in the Gateway National Park is known for strong tides, and is particularly tough on fishermen and bathers in the warmer months.
“Practicing with other organizations is important should we need to work together in real-life scenarios,” Hayden said. “We are also able to refine our procedures by observing how other squads perform rescues differently.”