Coast Guard Great Lakes ice rescue assets

Members of an ice rescue crew from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, prepare to deploy the SKF-ICE during Icy Resolve 2013, an ice rescue training exercise held at the station, Feb. 9, 2013. The SKF-ICE is used to rescue people on the ice during the winter months when their rescue boats are stored in the station’s boat house.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Laughlin

Members of an ice rescue crew from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, prepare to deploy the inflatable rescue craft.

Coast Guard Great Lakes units conduct hundreds of ice rescues and training events each winter. This work is done in the most arduous of environments, and it’s dangerous.

The 9th District has 39 stations, 2 sir stations, and 8 cutters designated, trained, and equipped for our ice rescue mission. A station’s ice rescue team is comprised of four members operating on foot from land or airboat.

During the 2013 winter season, Coast Guard rescue crews responded to 90n emergencies, rescuing 45 people and assisting 19.

To accomplish this, the Coast Guard employs a variety of time-tested ice rescue tools. Risk assessment and mission specifics dictate what equipment to take, and responders continually evaluate the weather and safety conditions.

Here is a look at Coast Guard ice rescue assets used in the Great Lakes:

Inflatable Rescue Craft:

The inflatable rescue craft is primarily used for ice rescue land to ice cases in enclosed ports, waterways and bays, or from a Coast Guard cutter. The construction and inherent design of the inflatable rescue craft makes this an ideal platform for performing a rescue in water or ice. The inflatable rescue craft may also be used to transport the ice rescue team to a location to complete the rescue.

Inflatable rescue crafts are in a class of their own due to their unique construction. The craft has upturned bows and sterns, and the deck or floor is open at each end, allowing for two entry points.

Chief Petty Officer Eric Hopperdietzel and Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Perrin, both from Coast Guard Station Milwaukee, train on the Rapid Deployment Craft during a joint agency ice rescue training on the Milwaukee Harbor, Feb. 4, 2014.  Agencies in attendance included Oconomowoc, Okauchee, Delafield and Saint Francis fire departments, as well as the Milwaukee Police Department dive team.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Brian Dykens

Chief Petty Officer Eric Hopperdietzel and Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Perrin, both from Coast Guard Station Milwaukee, train on the inflatable rescue craft during a joint agency ice rescue training on the Milwaukee Harbor, Feb. 4, 2014.

When deflated, each one fits into a 2-foot cube that weighs about 50 pounds and can easily be carried by one person.

The crafts light weight is the greatest advantage it has on the ice. In a situation where the scene of the rescue is too far to launch a rescue from shore, the craft can be used to transit over or through an ice field to the location in the same manner as pulling a skiff or john boat, but with much more ease due to its light weight. Once on scene, the crew can perform shore based rescue techniques. The inflatable rescue craft can be pulled across the ice field with or without the outboard engine.

Rescue Air Boat:

The rescue air boat is used by various Coast Guard units in the execution of ice rescue missions and flood response and is capable of operating over water, ice and short distances on land. Responders also use airboats to get into shallow-water and marsh areas and areas where deeper-draft vessels cannot go. They range in length from 18 feet to 24 feet.

Two 18-foot Special Purpose Craft-Air crews prepare to get underway on a safety patrol for stranded residents near Manvel, N.D., April 2, 2009. The recent floods have left many residents and their pets in the area stranded in their homes, some without power, until emergency teams from the Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Grand Forks SheriffÕs Department could reach them. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/PA3 Annie R. Berlin)

Two 18-foot air boat crews prepare to get underway on a safety patrol.

The Coast Guard’s rescue air boats may be used for cases in enclosed ports, waterways and bays. Once a determination has been made regarding the best method to complete the rescue, the air boat may be used to transport the rescue team to a desired location to begin rescue efforts.

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