MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Having moved to Minnesota from Florida, my scariest aquatic experience involved a water temperature below 80 degrees, until Tuesday.

I put on a protective “mustang” suit, ready for a mock water rescue in icy Lake Minnetonka with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol.

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Not yet at ice’s edge, I was already panic stricken. I can’t imagine this as my job.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says his county’s divers are total pros.

“These guys are really good at what they do, but they put their lives on risk every day when they go out and do this,” Stanek said.

To reduce the risk presented by all ice, be prepared. Sgt. Kent Vnuk of the water patrol says you should always have a life jacket and ice picks on hand.

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“What you want to do is get back to that safe ice and you want to start pulling yourself out of the ice using these ice picks,” Vnuk said.

Quick reaction is paramount as the effects of hypothermia set in, which Vnuk says is immediate.

“I mean in the first few minutes you’re gonna start losing that fine motor skill,” he said. “After about 10 to 15 minutes in the water, you’re gonna start having some pretty severe problems.”

That’s why it’s so important to call 911 immediately. Even in this controlled setting, it takes five deputies and several minutes to extract me from the frigid water.

And I may be an ice newbie, but veterans also need to be vigilant.

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The water patrol also advises if you see someone fall in, do not go in after them. Instead, throw them an item to use as flotation until rescuers arrive.