FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWTI) — Many North Country residents hid indoors this week to avoid the bitter cold temperatures, but for some, these conditions were used for emergency training.

During the week of January 24, Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services combated the below-zero temperatures to conduct ice rescue training on the Military installation. This required firefighters to endure “bone-chilling” water to practice rescue missions.

According to Fort Drum Fire Captain and Training Captain Jeffrey Hambsch, ice rescue is one of the squad’s top skill sets.

“Ice rescue is one of our mission skill sets, so that requires us to train on it at least once a year to stay proficient,” Hambsch said in a press release.

This training is mandatory for the Department. However, ice rescues are rare for fire departments in the North Country.

“For a lot of them, this is their first time in the water with this type of ice rescue suit,” he noted. “These suits are made to keep you buoyant, so part of the training is making sure you can keep your body under control and your feet under you while rescuing the victim.”

For many, this was a first. Hambsch also noted that in the past year, Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services has acquired several new firefighters, who were all new to ice rescue training.

“For a lot of them, this is their first time in the water with this type of ice rescue suit,” Hambsch said. “These suits are made to keep you buoyant, so part of the training is making sure you can keep your body under control and your feet under you while rescuing the victim.”

To train for this exercise, the firefighters acclimated to the training wearing the rescue suits in the Fort Drum Monti Physical Fitness Center pool, what Hambsch considered a “controlled environment.”

However, he said there was not much of a difference once the team was outdoors to conduct the rescue. The gear worn by the firefighters, including gloves, boots, a top, bottom and hood, all has neoprene insulation, helping to keep the bottom warm.

During the training, firefighters practiced tossing the rope-rescue bag, which is used to pull a victim to safety. They also practiced a side-arm throwing technique.

The training is typically held at Remington Pond on Fort Drum, but this year the training was held a new location, unfamiliar to firefighters. Coyote decoys and mannequins were also used to simulate emergency scenarios.