On Sunday, 1/16/11, the Point Pleasant Beach First Aid Squad - divers and EMTs - had a very productive Ice Rescue/Dive drill. For some long-time members, this was an annual refresher, but for several newer members this was a first-time exposure to these scenarios. We don't necessarily get ice thick enough to train on/under every winter, so the last few weeks of cold weather turned out to be a blessing.
We used a bayside cove off of Bergen Avenue in Mantoloking for the drill. Lt. Barcus, former diver and Liaison with Mantoloking PD, stopped by and made sure that the local authorities and residents were aware that this was a drill.
On arrival, Chief Nesley first reviewed how to evaluate ice conditions and getting on safely. Our drysuited divers then went to test the extent of walkable ice. (You could, of course, easily discover this by just walking until you break through; it was walkable two steps before that point.) Alternately, we practiced sensing the first flexing of the ice, and then got down on hands and knees, and then spread out flat to distribute weight and stay on top of things as long as possible.
Once in, everyone then practiced pulling him/herself and a victim out of the hole. This is not easy when the edge continues to break underneath the weight of two people. We then demonstrated that a human chain is an effective remedy for this, as is use of a tethered backboard. Asst. Chief Melo also presented patient care protocols once any victim is removed from the ice.
We then prepared for scuba dives under the ice. We started out with the standard triangular entry hole (which came out very neat this time). Seven divers then took turns being harnessed, tethered, and tendered under the ice. Our line pull system is a simple but effective means of communciation between diver and tender, so we practiced delivering instructions very deliberately.
Tom T was first in and experienced some navigation issues on his first ice foray since last year, but his second assigned course went much more smoothly. Getting comfortable under the ice takes time, as first timer Dave found out next. Doug and Tom C took their turns with smooth results, although the vis by the hole was getting murky.
On Sue's run, she'd been instructed to come up to the bottom of the ice in the middle of the cove so that Chief Nesley could show everyone topside what a diver's bubble trail looks like through the ice. However, the ice was too thick and frosty to much make out the diver, but they cut a fresh hole big enough to fit a head out. Sue once again proved that you shouldn't expect to be able to chisel your way out from down below with a knife (Newton was right - equal and opposite reactions). Finally, Eric and Chet took their turns, and we all wondered how they navigate so well under these conditions. All the while, Flo stayed topside with EMTs Jen, Max, Tom G, and Captain Meany, briefing them on what the divers were doing and the assistance they might need upon exit.
Having spent over 3 hours on and under the ice, most of us had cold hands, but everyone (wet and dry) felt that this was very productive. You never know what you'll get a real ice call, but we feel better prepared to respond.