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Ice Safety - Rescue Yourself

Canada’s home, car and business insurers remind you that ice is constantly changing in response to weather and water conditions. That’s why ice is never 100% safe, even when you’ve tested its thickness. The best way to guarantee your safety is to stay off the ice but sometimes that is not possible. In the event that you or someone around you falls through the ice, Be Smart. Be Safe. recommends the following ice rescue tips:

1. Stay calm and call for help.

It is normal to feel frightened and confused if you fall into cold water; however, in the first few minutes, make a conscious effort to get your breathing under control. Try to remain calm, and call for help.

2. Do not attempt to remove your clothing.

Air trapped in clothing will help keep you afloat and warm, which will help protect you against hypothermia.

3. Kick vigorously into a floating position.

Using the air trapped in your clothing to help you float, kick vigorously into a horizontal, floating position and swim back in the direction from which you came. (The ice you travelled over held your weight.)

4. Reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down.

This is where ice picks or some other sharpened object can come in handy in providing the extra traction you need to pull yourself up onto the ice.

5. Kick vigorously into a swimming position.

Once your feet and legs are near the surface, continue to kick vigorously while using your arms to help propel yourself forward onto the ice, like a seal.

6. Do not stand up on the ice.

Use your arms to gently lift your torso to allow the water to drain from your clothing and reduce your weight. Once some of the water has drained, try to push yourself forward on your stomach, or crawl or roll away from the hole to keep your weight distributed over a greater surface area. Look forward to make sure you're going in the right direction and do not stand up until you have moved onto the ground or an area of solid ice.

7. Seek shelter and protect yourself from hypothermia.

Once you’re on solid ice, remember that hypothermia still poses a threat to your life. You must decide whether to stay where you are and try to warm and dry yourself or go to seek shelter. If shelter is reasonably close by (e.g., less than 30 minutes away), go; if not, stay where you are.

8. If you go, keep moving and find shelter quickly.

Ring out wet clothing and keep moving to increase heat production. Do not overexert yourself to the point of exhaustion. Find shelter as quickly as possible.

9. If you stay, protect yourself from the elements.

Protect yourself from the wind by wrapping yourself in some kind of vapor barrier and insulation. If you can, get off the ice and build a fire. Dry yourself off as thoroughly as possible and change into dry clothing if you have any available. If you don’t, take off your clothing, wring it out and put it on again.

Important: At no time should an untrained rescuer venture onto the ice to perform a rescue. Remember that if someone has fallen through thin ice, the same thing may happen to a rescuer who tries to approach the hole.

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