General

Falling through the ice is extremely dangerous, (particularly in the winter – summer ice is way softer and warmer) so all attempts are to be made to prevent this.  If you have the misfortune of falling through – death is very possible.

Prevention

Consider the following:

  • Do not travel on frozen lakes unless confident it is safe,
  • Distribute your weight – wear snow shoes or skis,
  • Travel with a partner – tie yourselves together and stay at least 20 metres apart,
  • Frozen rivers are even more dangerous than lakes – the ice is often thinner and if you fall through, the current can suck you under the ice,
  • Travel with a large stick or pole – carry it horizontally to the ground,
  • Carry an ice axe – for self-rescue.

Self Rescue

If you have the misfortune of falling through, consider the following:

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  • Shout and blow your whistle to alert anyone in the area,
  • Position ski poles across the hole to support you,
  • Break thin ice with your fists and elbows until you encounter strong ice,
  • If you are alone, your backpack and skis must also be rescued – before self-rescue, push them onto the ice as far as you can,
  • Use ski pole tips or an ice axe to pull yourself onto the ice,
  • Kick with your feet – ‘swim’ and flop onto the ice,
  • Push with your feet from the opposite edge of the hole,
  • Without poles or ice axes – use your hands to push up gently on the edge of the ice. Carefully fall forward after each push-up and repeat as needed.  When the ice gets thicker – begin crawling on all fours. Stand up only when confident the ice will support you,
  • Remove wet clothes as soon as possible,
  • Treat for hypothermia.

Rescuing A Companion

Consider the following:

  • Reassure your friend,
  • Avoid going onto the ice yourself – if possible,
  • If necessary to go on the ice – you are taking a risk and may also need to be rescued,
  • Rescue using a throw bag, rope or stick,
  • Approach your friend from the direction they travelled,
  • Crawl or roll on the ice to distribute your weight,
  • Take rope, ski poles, skis, long stick, jacket or anything to extend your reach to assist rescue,
  • When several rescuers are available – a chain can be formed,
  • Treat for hypothermia.
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