By Jacob Wycoff

WORCESTER (CBS) – It’s an annual tradition for the Worcester Fire Department — ice rescue drills.

As ponds begin freezing over every winter, Worcester Fire starts their training and outreach to city residents.

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Bell Pond is one of the most used training locations for the fire department. Without any source, the lack of moving water tends to ice the pond over fairly quickly.

Training begins with a chain saw cutting through the ice. This allows the fire department to gauge how thick the ice is during various points in the season. After a quick chat, the first ‘victim’ is in the water.

Worcester firefighters make their ice training drills as realistic as possible. (WBZ-TV)

The fire department runs these simulated drills as close to reality as possible. The rescuer circles around the victim, rolls into the water, clips rope around them, then both are pulled to safety.

Lt. John Franco, the scuba coordinator for the fire department, told WBZ-TV that time is key when 911 calls come in.

“You only have a certain amount of time to get them out of the water. With hypothermia, they are going to be lifeless really quick. We need to get them out of the water really quick,” Franco said.

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The Worcester Fire Department averages less than one ice rescue call per year. This is something that Franco attributes to the outreach they do with the city schools. In fact, the city of Worcester has not had an ice drowning in over 30 years.

The Worcester Fire Department believes there is no such thing as safe ice.

“What we have is frazzled ice, which is ice that melts then refreezes, then it snows, refreezes, then melts. You’re never going to get safe, solid ice,” said Franco.

WBZ-TV’s Jacob Wycoff participates in an ice rescue drill in Worcester. (WBZ-TV)

The Worcester Fire Department gave WBZ-TV’s Jacob Wycoff a chance to be a victim. He donned a cold weather suit and rolled into the ice.

Franco said that if you were to fall into the ice, the key is to remain calm and hang out on the ice shelf until you can be rescued.

If you see someone in the water, it’s important to call 911 first.

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“I know you want to go out there and help your friend, but if he fell through, it means the ice isn’t safe,” said Franco.

Jacob Wycoff