Falling Through the Ice
Photo by Michael Aleo
Frozen over lakes and ponds are inviting to play on but can be dangerous as Spring approaches.

Now that Spring is finally here and Winter’s ice has begun to melt, it’s time to talk about ice safety. Knowing what to do in an emergency can often be the difference between discomfort and tragedy. If you are going to be on ice for any period of time, then certain gear is encouraged. Things like an ice pick and a flotation device could save your life.

Fifty-two people last year slipped through lake ice and were killed. Most of those accidents could have been avoided. With a few simple concepts and a calm head, you can quickly self-rescue from the freezing water. The inevitable partner to winter moisture, ice often lurks under a fine layer of snow or blatantly covers our roads and trees. Early winter and spring are the most dangerous times because of temperature and increased water flow. Ice is also a natural effect to our waterways and lakes. While ice offers us wintertime opportunities like skating and ice fishing, it is important to understand the real dangers it presents.

Escape the Ice and Water

Before you head out onto the ice, it’s important to know how to save yourself in the event you fall through.

Even though it will happen quickly, do everything possible to brace yourself and prepare for what is to come. This includes holding your breath and doing everything possible to keep your head out of the water to delay hypothermia.

If you are submerged, look for the lighter area above you. That will be the most likely point where you fell through as snow-covered areas will appear dark.

As you move back to the hole, do your best to keep your head out of the water. This will help avoid more body heat loss and in turn help keep your mind clear. Avoid the temptation to shed clothing because it is working to insulate you.

Move to the edge of the ice where you initially fell in. While never a guarantee, it has the best chance of once again supporting your weight. Avoid trying to drag yourself back onto the ice with a pull-up-type maneuver. This motion can be extremely difficult. A better option is to get horizontal as if you were swimming towards the edge. All at once, kick your feet in a swimming motion and use your elbows to ease yourself back onto the ice.

Out of the Water

Once you are out of the water, avoid the desire to stand up. Instead, roll away from the hole to safety. Standing will put more direct pressure on the ice and possibly cause it to collapse again. By distributing your body weight across a larger area, you are less likely to fracture the ice again immediately upon resurfacing and gaining traction.

If you are unable to initially pull yourself out, conserve your energy and pull yourself out as far as you can. Keep your head and arms out of the water and regain your composure for another try.

Below is a quick video explaining the proper method for escaping an frozen pond if you’ve broken through the ice.

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