What should you do if you fall through the ice?

With winter comes freezing temperatures and increased danger from frozen lochs, lakes and rivers. This advice is mainly geared towards general outdoors enthusiasts, but it will still be valuable to those who are trying out ice baths, winter swimming and ideas like the Wim Hof method. In this article we will cover the basics of what you should do if you fall through the ice? We will also cover links to UK fire services that are giving similar advice and demonstration self-rescue videos.

Two main scenarios

There are two main scenarios when considering What should you do if you fall through the ice?

1: If it is you who falls through the ice.

2: If it is someone else that walls through the ice, including your dog.

General safety advice around frozen water

The best advice is to stay off frozen water. It may look like something fun to-do, but if you have no confidence in the thickness of the ice, the depth of the water underneath, as well as a number of other factors then simply stay off the ice. Ice skating, or throwing your ball or branch for your dog onto the ice is very dangerous. Just enjoy the winter and stay off frozen water.

Scenario one – What to do if you fall through ice?

If you fall through the ice:

Self Rescue Superman style on thick ice

  • It is hard but you must stay calm and call for help if you fall into frigid water. The initial impact of the cold water will send you into panic, you will gasp for air, it will make you hyperventilate but after a few seconds it will pass and you must take control of your breathing and your fear and force yourself to be calm.
  • If no help is available, then you must attempt to self-rescue. Do not attempt to do a chin-up and pull yourself up onto the ice. Think more of a Superman position and sliding onto the ice shelf. Spread your arms across the surface of the ice, and float your legs up so you’re flat across the surface of the water like superman.
  • If the ice is strong enough kick your legs hard and slide up onto the ice.
  • Lie flat and pull and crawl yourself back to the bank, to do not stand up to early, you may go back through.

Self Rescue On Thin Ice

  • If the ice is very thin, and you cannot do as described above, then break the ice in front of you, a little at a time and make your way back to the shore.

If you cannot self-rescue

  • If you cannot climb out, wait for help keeping as still as possible, whilst still signalling for help if need be.
  • Press your arms by your side and keep your legs together, keep your body mass as one.

Scenario two – What should you do if you see someone else fall through the ice?

If you see someone fall through the ice:

In all situations

  • First off, shout for assistance and call the emergency services – call 999 or 112 – it’s free from every phone.
  • Stay off the ice! Do not add yourself to the danger.
  • Shout to the casualty to keep still and keep calm, and ask them their name.

Use a ring buoy or similar from the bank.

  • Most lakes, lochs and rivers will have a life ring, life belt, ring buoy or similar station or post, if it is close by use this.¬†
  • If not try and reach them from the bank using a rope, pole, a tree branch, clothing tied together or anything else that extends your reach.
  • If you cannot get to them, toss something that floats like a life preserver over the ice for them to hold onto and stay above water.
  • When reaching for the bank, lie down or keep your centre of gravity low to avoid being pulled onto the ice.
  • Describe the above self-rescue methods to them.
  • If the casualty is out of reach, and unable to self rescue, wait for the emergency services whilst keeping them calm and reassuring them.

Once out of the icy water

There is a big chance of hypothermia setting in after being in a cold water situation, the key is to warm up gradually.

Self Rescue

  • Once you are safe, make sure the ambulance is on its way and get to the hospital immediately for a check-up.
  • Prevent yourself from getting any colder by putting extra clothing on. Covering yourself including your head, with blankets or spare clothing, scarfs etc.
  • Get to a shelter and out of the cold.
  • Until you’re in a warm place do not undress.
  • Do not rub your skin.
  • Keep yourself wrapped up so that you warm up gradually.

If rescuing others.

  • Make sure the ambulance is on its way, the key is to get them to the hospital immediately for a check-up.
  • Lay them flat, check their breathing and pulse and begin resuscitation if necessary.
  • Prevent them from getting colder by putting them in blankets or spare clothing, scarves, hats, gloves etc.
  • Get them into a shelter out of the cold.
  • Until the casualty is in a warm place do not undress them.
  • Do not rub their skin.
  • Keep them wrapped up so that they warm up gradually.

In Conclusion

What should you do if you fall through or see one one else fall through the ice of a frozen lake or frozen river? Follow the advice above and do not attempt to rescue them yourself. Call for help and wait for trained professionals to arrive. It’s important to prioritise your own safety in these situations.

Falling Through Ice Rescue Videos

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