CASSADAGA - The Big Dip was a humorous name given to a serious event, the three-hour ice rescue drill for Chautauqua County fire department and law enforcement personnel held Saturday at the Cassadaga Boat Launch.
Deputy Fire Coordinator Jon Stahley explained, "We've done this for 10 years, once a year. All the fire departments are invited. Volunteer firefighters and personnel from the county sheriff's office are here. In addition, the county hazmat team is here to assist. They bring a heated tent that can be used by personnel to change clothes or for the victims."
Before the drill began, Stahley spoke to personnel, explaining the three separate areas - a beginner section "where you can get your feet wet, so to speak," a section for hand rope work, and the motorized operation.
The Big Dip was a humorous name given to a serious event, the three-hour ice rescue drill for Chauta
Stahley also emphasized safety explaining that an accountability officer would, "check you on and off the ice. No one is to be on the ice without a suit or a personal floatation device. It is everyone's job to think about safety." He then cautioned to avoid three things: fatigue, cold and dehydration. He urged people to rest when tired, to keep warm, and to drink fluids.
Stahley said it was a perfect day for the event, pointing out that the ice presented "good bad conditions." By that he meant this is the time of the year when there are more likely to be incidents because the ice is starting to break up. He also said the cold was actually a good thing because those in suits would not get too warm.
Three rescue boats were on the lake. Celoron and Bemus Point Fire Departments brought their air propelled rescue boats, and Dewittville brought its hovercraft. Jim Backlas, the president of the Dewittville Fire Department explained, "The hovercraft can go 70 mph, top speed."
OBSERVER Photos by Diane R. Chodan
Above: Deputy Fire Coordinator Jon Stahley emphasizes safety.
Top: The Celoron Ice/Water Rescue Boat in action.
Burl Swanson, Dewittville's assistant fire chief, explained that the craft is designated as 221 (fire battalion, department, and unit of designation). He emphasized how important it is to get to a victim within that "golden hour" to increase the chances of survival. He also explained that the "mammalian diving reflex" can extend life longer precisely because the cold water triggers changes to the body. He said this effect is more pronounced in children.
The purpose of the event was to prepare for a rescue situation, and try to avert tragedy. Yet all the personnel emphasized that the public should be safety conscious. Stahley said that sometimes people want "to catch that last fish, or are overconfident that when something happens we can pull them out."
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