Officers at the U.S. Coast Guard Traverse City Air Station are keeping their rescue skills sharp.
With a coverage area as far south as Chicago and as far north as Lake Superior, everyone has to know how to respond to emergency water situations confidently and quickly.
Their rescue swimmer drill takes a couple of hours.
We joined the Coast Guard on one of their multi-step drills that keeps them ready to react at a moment’s notice.
“If you’re wearing typical jeans, shirt, sweatshirt, you don’t have long,” said Aviation Survival Technician One Jon Houlberg.
Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Jon Houlberg says you only have 30 minutes to live if you fall into the water this time of year.
It’s only about 40 degrees right now.
“When the water’s this cold, if you aren’t dressed appropriately you can’t breathe. You’re going get hypothermic.”
Hypothermia is an even greater threat than drowning this time of year, according to Houlberg.
So the U.S. Coast Guard Traverse City Air Station makes sure to practice rescue drills as much as possible — using one boat and two helicopters.
“One person will pretend to be a victim. The other one will just go out and deploy and treat them like a survivor,” said Aviation Survival Technician One Travis Nash said.
They will also practice basket drops from the helicopter and free falling, simulating a variety of rescue situations they may come across as the weather warms up.
“We’re coming up on the season where everyone is putting their boats back in the water,” Houlberg said.
The Coast Guard wears extra thick layers when working in colder temps — and you need to, too.
Your clothing can make all the different if you ever find yourself needing the Coast Guard’s help.
“If you’re not dressed right, if you don’t have a wetsuit on or a dry suit on if you’re kayaking, the biggest thing that’s going to kill you isn’t the water temp necessarily. It’s the fact that you can’t expand your lungs to breathe.”
The Coast Guard wants to remind people to always have a life jacket, radio and strobe light with you when you’re on the water.