CLEVELAND — What we saw was just a drill, with participants dressed in layers designed to withstand the freezing waters and frigid winds of Lake Erie.
"Nobody every really thinks about how fast hypothermia can set in, because it can set in anywhere from minutes to seconds with how harsh these environments can be," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Trent Gulliford said.
At Station Cleveland Harbor, their motto is "No ice is safe ice," even if you think you're dressed for the elements and you believe the ice is thick enough.
"If you fall through the ice, control your breathing, establish an ice shelf so you can get your arms on top of the ice to pull yourself out," Gulliford explained. "Once you stay cool, calm, and collected, it can help you in the long run get out of the water."
Gulliford, who specializes in ice rescues, led Wednesday's training. He's aware that, even with warnings, people will risk their lives and venture out on the ice.
"Make sure you have a plan," he said. "Make sure you have a buddy or you don't go alone. Make sure you have some sort of flotation device with you."
Ice wanderers should also tell people where they're going and when they'll be back, and check the NOAA website for ice depth information. At least 4 inches of ice are needed for safe walking on top, but even then, the lake brings it's challenges.
"You never know how weak the ice is," Gulliford cautioned, "and you never know what the environment can bring, too."
The Coast Guard is trained for rescues on the water, but ice brings an extra barrier because the boats and tools they can use to get around the water quickly in the summer won't work in the winter.