Check the Ice

Ice Smart Tips

Ice is constantly changing in response to weather and water conditions. That’s why ice is never 100 percent safe, even when you’ve tested its thickness. The best advice is to stay off it. In the meantime, remember to do the following if you do decide to venture onto the ice:

  1. Check the weather: Avoid ice-related activities on warm or stormy days.
  2. Check ice conditions with knowledgeable local individuals (for example, resort owners, Facebook groups, or members of snowmobile clubs): The Lifesaving Society recommends a minimum ice thickness of 10 cm (4 inches) for a single person to walk, ice fish, or cross-country ski on it. Remember, though, that this recommendation is for new, clear ice under ideal conditions.
  3. Avoid vehicle travel on ice whenever possible, especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs: Remember that even one drink can dull your senses, slow your reaction time and impair your judgement. If you do drive on ice ensure that your windows are rolled down, doors are unlocked, and lights are turned on, as these precausions will allow for a quicker escape from your vehicle if it should go through the ice. And operating a vehicle under the influence is illegal. 
  4. Keep away from unfamiliar paths or unknown ice, and avoid travelling on ice at night: If you are going to a new place then look for the tracks of where everyone else goes.  If everyone else doesn't walk or drive in an area then there is a good chance that there is a reason. 
  5. Never go onto the ice alone: A buddy may be able to rescue you or go for help if you get into difficulty. Always keep some space between you and your buddy so only one of you falls in.
  6. Before you leave shore, inform someone of your destination and expected time of return.
  7. Wear a thermal protection buoyant suit to increase your chances of survival if you do go through the ice: If you don’t have one, wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over an ordinary snowmobile suit or layered winter clothing.
  8. Assemble a small personal safety kit, no larger than the size of a wallet, and carry it on your person: The kit should include a lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter, pocketknife, compass and whistle. Remember that your electronic car keys may not work if they have been submerged in water.
  9. Carry ice picks, an ice staff and a rope: A cellular phone could also help save your life if it is water proof or kept in a water resistant bag.
  10. If children do play on ice, insist that they wear a lifejacket/PFD or thermal protection buoyant suit: They should always be with a buddy and under adult supervision. Children that aren’t “within arms’ reach” have ventured too far.

Self Rescue from ice

If you find yourself in the icy cold water after falling through the ice What should you expect and do?

When you first enter the water you will experince the cold shock response where your body will automatically inhale and your breathing will be out of control.  If your head is under the water when this happens then you may inhale water.

After about a minute you should start to gain control of your breathing and you have about 10 minutes to get out of the water.

  • Remove any clothing you can starting with your boots.  Boots of any sort will make it hard to swim and should be the first item of clothing to be removed.
  • Turn yourself to the direction you came from, you know that the ice was strong enough until you fell in.
  • Break any loose ice from the edge until you are sure what is left is solid ice.
  • You will now need to use your arms to pull yourself up while kicking your legs. Ice picks may help you gain grip whihc you can buy or make. If you only get halfway out then take a moment to catch your breath and then keep going.
  • After you are out of the water you will either roll or crawl away for some distance spreading your weight over the ice surface.  
  • Once you are far enough away your next priority is to get out of your wet clothes and warm up.  This can be a vehicle, house, ice fishing shack, or even setting up a fire.  Hypothermia will set in and while you have some time to take action you do need to take action. 

Rescue of Others from Ice

If you witness someone else fall through the ice there are several things you can do to help them while keeping yourself safe. 

  • Call to them to assure them but also to gain attention from others to assist.
  • It takes atleast an hour for someone to die from hypothermia.  While you want to get them out as soon as possible it's best to to do it as safely as possible so you don't become a victim also.
  • You want to stay as far away from the vicitm as possible so find something to throw out to them that you can pull them out with.  Examples of this may include a rope, extension cord, tow strap, booster cables, the sled with your fishing gear in it, clothing, or the bouyant heaving line from your boat.  
  • Appraoch the victim along the same path they took as you know that ice is stable. The closer you get to the victim the lower need to get and spread out your weight on the ice. 
  • Once you are close enough throw the assist to them and then kneel down, if you are not all ready, and pull them out on to the ice.  
  • Once they are out you can let them catch their breath for a moment before you direct them to crawl or crawl away from where they fell in.
  • Get them out of their wet clothes and warm them up with heat, dry clothes, blankets, in a house, in a vehicle.  Do not put them in a warm bathtub.