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Vernon Hills High students practice ice-water rescues

A balmy 18 degrees couldn’t keep Vernon Hills High School senior Mitchell Rubin and his outdoor adventure education classmates from learning ice-water rescue techniques Thursday.

“Ice safety is such an important topic in our community because of the sheer number of lakes and retention ponds we have in our surrounding areas,” outdoor adventure education teacher Jesse Wolter said. “Growing up, students have received some education about this, but it is all through a presentation and nothing is hands on.”

Huddled on the bank of a pond just south of the school, students worked together under the supervision of Tony Rodkey, fire and life safety director and a firefighter/paramedic for Countryside Fire Protection District.

Students were given the opportunity to go into the icy water and rescue firefighter/paramedic Brendan McGuire.

Rubin, 18, wore a mustang drysuit during the rescue drill.

The modular, waterproof suit is the same type worn by firefighters when they perform water rescues. It has a watertight hood, integrated gloves, and attached boots. The flotation and insulation performance of a zip-in buoyancy liner allows users to immerse themselves for long periods of time in ice-cold water and maintain mental and physical capabilities.

“It was a neat experience, and the only part of me that really got cold was my fingers,” Rubin said after coming out of the water.

Last year, the Vernon Hills High outdoor adventure program received a DARING Innovation Grant from the District 128 Foundation for Learning. The money was used to purchase three waterproof suits.

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