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Don’t let ice safety slip your mind this winter

Danger Thin Ice Signage

Shot of an icy lake

Kawartha Lakes – With the cold weather upon us, we are entering ice fishing, skating, skiing and snowmobiling season. Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue is urging everyone to pay special attention to ice conditions during the winter months.

Drowning doesn't just happen to non-swimmers in the summer. According to the Royal Life Saving Society Canada, “approximately 35% of drowning in Canada occurs between the months of October to April, when most people have no intention of going into the water. Snowmobiling and ice accidents account for most of these incidents.”

Many factors can affect the thickness levels of ice including the type of water, location and the time of year. There are also other environmental factors such as:

  • Water depth and size of body of water.
  • Currents, tides and other moving water.
  • Chemicals including salt.
  • Fluctuations in water levels.
  • Logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun.
  • Changing air temperature.
  • Shock waves from vehicles traveling on the ice. 

“No ice is safe ice. There are two outcomes; it will either support your weight or it will not,” Alana Erwood Fire and Life Safety Educator.

Check the ice before you go on it.

Thin ice is responsible for many fatalities each year. Hypothermia, which is a decrease in body temperature, affects people in cold water by reducing their ability to swim or stay afloat. A person who has fallen through the ice can eventually die of cardiac arrest if not rescued or rewarmed.

Safety Tips:

  1. Always check ice thickness before venturing out.
          • 15 cm for walking or skating alone
          • 20 cm for skating parties or games
          • 25 cm for snowmobiles.
  1. Be suspicious. You cannot tell the strength of the ice by its appearance. Temperature, thickness, snow cover, water depth, size of water body, currents and distribution of the load on top of the ice are all factors affecting ice safety.
  2. Before you head onto any ice, check with a local bait shop operator or resort owner for known ice conditions, thin ice areas or dangerous open water conditions.

What to do if you break through the ice?

  1. Resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in. The ice is weak in this area.
  2. Try to relax and control your breathing.
  3. Call out for help. 
  4. Attempt to self-rescue by turning toward the direction you came from and place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface.
  5. Kick your feet and try to push yourself forward on top of the unbroken ice on your stomach like a seal.
  6. Once you are lying on the ice, don't stand up. Roll away from the break until you're on solid ice.

What to do if your pet falls through the ice?   

If your pet falls through the ice, remain on shore or in place if on the ice. Call 9-1-1, the firefighters will be dispatched to the scene to perform a rescue. Do not attempt to rescue your pet, the ice will not support your weight and you may also fall through.

Kawartha Lakes has 250 lakes and rivers. From 2014 to 2018, Kawartha Lakes Fire has responded to 28 water rescue calls and 10 ice water rescue calls.

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