ALEXANDRIA BAY, N.Y. (WWTI) — The United States Coast Guard has warned of dangerous ice conditions throughout the North Country. At the Coast Guard station in Alexandria Bay, officers have been training for emergency ice rescues.

According to Senior Chief Peter Nelson, ice rescues can be deployed in the area on waterbodies, including the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. “Whether the person needing to be rescued was in open water, or they’re clinging to an ice shelf, [we] can deploy different techniques and procedures to rescue them,” Senior Chief Nelson explained. “It all depends on when we show up to a case. We’ll have a team leader who will evaluate the situation and decide the best course of action going forward.”

Ice rescue certification is required for all Coast Guard personnel stationed at Alexandria Bay. To become certified officers must completer classroom learning where they are taugh techniques and equiptment. They then transition to field training, where they must perform a self-rescue, and rescue by sled and boat. All participants of the training are also required to wear many layers of warm, waterproof gear as a preparation for real situations.

As temperatures fluctuate in the winter, Nelson shared that the most common ice-related emergency calls are from snowmobilers and ice fisherman. “The most common calls that we have are from an individual who went through the ice, we can also encounter individuals who are stuck on an ice flow,” Nelson said. “They’ll be out fishing, or recreating out on the ice and that piece of ice can break free. They essentially get stranded.”

Nelson went on to add that one can never been too careful on the ice. “No ice is safe ice,” the Senior Chief stated. “Regardless of your knowledge of the area, how long you’ve been out recreating on the ice, you have to be prepared for the worst. So, always assume that when you go out on the ice that there’s a likelihood you may go through the ice and that you’re prepared appropriately.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Alexandria Bay station is located on Hopewell Hall Road on Wellesley Island, New York, directly on the St. Lawrence River. The unit can be reached by calling 315-482-2574, but if in an emergency situation, dial 911.