INDIANAPOLIS — This winter has been mild for the most part but first responders say temperature swings like the one Central Indiana has been going through can make an already dangerous situation even worse.
That is why emergency officials are reminding everyone to stay off frozen waterways.
"In Central Indiana there is no safe ice, it just thaws and freezes too much," Wayne Township Fire Department Capt. Michael Pruitt said.
RTV6 joined the fire department as the first responders took advantage of the weather allowing them to train for the worst case scenario in the cold waterways and prepare for ice rescues.
"Depending on the size of the individual, it can be just a couple minutes before hypothermia sets in, and that individual loses all ability to even communicate or self-rescue themselves," Pruitt said. "That is why we have to conduct these rescues in a rapid manner so we can get the individual that has fallen through the ice because they have no protection and also get our rescuers in and out of the water as fast as possible."
Before rescuers arrive on scene, Pruitt says he knows bystanders want to help. But there is a safe way to do it so bystanders do not become a victim them self.
"We ask that you dial 911 immediately," Pruitt said. "Take the opportunity to find something that will float you can throw them extension cords, rope, just anything that will float and they can hold on to until rescuers’ can arrive on the scene and safely remove them from the water."
If you are driving and slide off the road into a waterway, Pruitt explains you need to be aware of your surroundings and make a judgment call to find the safest option for you and any other passengers.
"If you are in the car, we are not going to tell you to stay in the car if the car is sinking," Pruitt said. "It is important to get out of the vehicle at all possible if you can. But in many cases our ponds are not that deep so if your car does go into the water and if you are safe in that car and it is not filling full of water, just sit tight and wait for someone to come and rescue you. But that is kind of a game time decision to be prepared, if you skid out on any type of waterways, is to get out if you can, but if you feel like you are safe, sit tight until rescuers arrive on the scene."
Rescue crews also want to remind everyone retention ponds are not for recreational use. No one, including kids, should be on them at any time.
"If you do see children out on the ice in your neighborhoods, you know take action quickly, get them off the ice," Pruitt said. "If they are not going to listen to you, then that's when we need to call 911 and report these individuals so that we don't have any type of tragedy that will happen because we just know that kids are going to be attracted to go out and try to play on these waterways."
If your pet or someone else's winds up on the ice, do not go after it. Either try to call the animal off the ice, or if they fall through, call 911.
"If you have a pet that runs on the ice, just don't go after the pet," Pruitt said. "Either coax the pet off the ice or if the pet does fall through, call 911. We know what happens, whenever an animal is in distress that people are going to make an attempt to try to save that animal. We are equipped to help in whatever we can with an animal, but with human beings that fall through the ice, this is something we encounter in the state of Indiana every year. We know those stories are going to play with someone falling through the ice and many times it ends in a tragic situation just because people didn't pay attention to the situation."
Pruitt also says that experienced recreational fisherman should have a good working knowledge of ice conditions if they do to choose to go ice fishing. You are asked to make sure you go out with a flotation device and have a means of communication ready for an emergency. Otherwise, there is no reason anyone should be out on any ice or waterway this winter.