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Brick Township Police Marine Unit Ready to Prevent Ice Tragedies

Safety officials have issued copious warnings to avoid the temptation of walking across ice-covered lakes, and even Barnegat Bay, during the cold snap. But Brick Township police have prepped themselves in case you missed the frosty memo.

Brick Township Police Marine Unit Ice Rescue Drill (Brick Township PD)
Brick Township Police Marine Unit Ice Rescue Drill (Brick Township PD)

Members of the Marine Unit waded into frigid Lake Riviera Thursday for rescue training drills. They were clad in thermal coverall-type suits donated by the Trenton-based Switlik Parachute Company.

The 12-member unit, which normally operates between May and October under Sergeant Lawrence Petrola’s guidance, conducted several mock rescues to sharpen their timing and efficiency. They stay on call all year for emergencies.

Weather experts advise staying off ice-coated bodies of water unless the ice is at least four inches thick. As cold as it’s been, waters at the shore have had nowhere near enough time to build thicknesses of that level.

Brick Township Police Marine Unit (Brick Township PD)
Brick Township Police Marine Unit (Brick Township PD)

According to Sergeant Petrola, officers are attached to all shifts. In case of a fall-through, officers with thermal suits in hand can be in the water within two to three minutes.

What happens to you?

“The body will react  into ‘cold shock,’ in near-freezing water,” says Petrola. “People in decent physical condition will generally have at least five minutes, and sometimes much longer, before they lose the strength or coordination to pull themselves out.”

Severe hypothermia needs time to take control of a body, he continues, but the critical point is to restore body heat as soon as possible. Then, get medical care.

If you find yourself in trouble, he says, “Don’t panic. Try to keep head above water. Pull yourself out at strongest point of ice. Use one arm and one leg up then roll out.”

If you must venture into this dangerous territory, says the Sergeant, have a buddy nearby and attach a rope between you. Bring a walking stick and an ice-breaking tool.

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