Responders train in brutally cold conditions along Great South Bay

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WEST ISLIP -

First responders were out along the frozen coast of the Great South Bay Saturday to take advantage of the brutally cold conditions for some important training.

Members of the West Islip Fire Department were taking part in ice-rescue training. Brave members of the department suited up in special gear and entered the frigid bay to practice rescuing people from the icy cold water.

Fire officials warn that hypothermia and even death can set in only in a matter of minutes in the water during these frigid conditions. They say a person's arms, hands and legs quickly become useless as the blood instead goes to the vital organs to keep the person alive.

The fire department is warning people not to walk on ice, even if it looks solid. The department's policy is, "No ice is safe ice."

Other Long Islanders with jobs that keep them outside were also braving the dangerously cold conditions on Saturday. Along Route 110 in Melville, crews were out clearing snow leftover from the blizzard earlier this week, and workers were bundled up against the biting winds.

State Department of Transportation crews say that when temperatures fall this low, extra workers are brought in so they can be rotated into heated vehicles.

"It definitely makes the job tougher, takes longer to do normal operations," says Brett Betke, a highway maintenance supervisor with the state DOT.

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