If you happen to be driving or walking past the Presumpscot River in Westbrook this week and spot firefighters and rescue teams in the water, everything is okay. No one has fallen in the river, but these rescue teams are out there for a good reason.

Like anything, in order to make sure your skills are at the top of your game, you need to practice. That's exactly what the Westbrook Fire Department is doing out on the frozen Presumpscot. Brushing up on their skills and training new team members on the proper techniques of a water rescue.

It doesn't matter whether it's a lake, pond or river. Any body of water can be dangerous, especially so in the winter. As soon as someone falls into icy water, seconds count.

According to outdoors.org, there are three stages you go through if you fall into cold water.

The first is cold shock response. When you enter the cold water your body responds by causing you to involuntarily hyperventilate. That lasts for about a minute. This is when you need to remain the calmest and not panic.

The second stage is cold incapacitation. You have about 10 minutes before you start losing the ability to use your arms and legs.

The third stage is hypothermia. It begins to set in in about 30 minutes. After an hour you will lose conciousness.

The Westbrook Fire Department Water Rescue team is training to be sure they have the skills to get you out of the water if you should all in. They warn you however that frozen rivers ice is never safe to be on. Frozen lakes here are the guidelines to know if it's safe according to the Maine Warden Service.

  • For new, clear ice, 2 inches or less is dangerous.
  • 4 inches might be safe for ice fishing and other activities on foot.
  • 5 inches is good for snowmobiles and ATV's.
  • 8 to 12 inches of good ice will support most cars or small pickups.
  • 12 to 15 inches will usually hold a medium-sized truck.

So now you have had your training as well, and know to stay off river ice and know when lake ice is safe. But if you do fall in, the Westbrook Fire Department Water Rescue Team will be ready to get you out as quickly as they can.

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