Stay off the ice, it’s not safe, officials warn

A frozen sheet of ice is most tempting on those cold, hot chocolate days, but it is important to be aware of ice safety before stepping, or gliding, onto to the surface.

  • Dec. 8, 2009 9:00 a.m.

By Jasmine Franklin

A frozen sheet of ice is most tempting on those cold, hot chocolate days, but it is important to be aware of ice safety before stepping, or gliding, onto to the surface.

“Exercise caution,” said Donna Noble, Ponoka’s fire prevention co-ordinator. “Don’t take the risk if you aren’t sure, it’s not worth it.”

Though river ice looks sturdy, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration before planning a skating trip. The type of water, location and the time of year all affect ice stability, according to the Canadian Red Cross.

Ice colour

An important way to determine ice strength is through its color: clear blue ice is the strongest, while white, opaque (frozen wet snow on ice) or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Grey ice is most dangerous and should be avoided at all cost; grey ice indicates the presence of water.

“As much as you want to go skating there hasn’t been enough cold weather really to make ice,” Noble said.

Thickness requirements

According to the Red Cross and the RCMP, for walking or skating ice should be at least 15 centimetres m thick; 20 centimetres for skating parties or games; and 25 centimetres for snowmobiles.

“Signs usually go up at Centennial Park warning of thin ice,” Noble said. “It’s important people follow that.”

According to the Red Cross, if someone falls into an ice surface the first thing to be done is call for help. Do not try and climb out of the hole because the ice in that vicinity will be weak. Rather, reach forward onto the broken ice, not putting any pressure on it, and kick your legs to try and push the torso onto the ice. When back on the ice, crawl on the stomach or roll away from the open area while distributing body weight by spreading the arms and legs out as far as possible. Do not stand up.

If a group travels on ice and one person falls in, it is important to realize that rescuing the person can be dangerous. The safest thing to do is call for help and try to get emergency services on scene as soon as possible. If the person can be reached with a long pole or branch, lie down and extend the object to the person. However, if circumstances call for going onto the ice, wear a life jacket and be sure that when nearing the ice break to lie down and distribute your weight.

Have the person kick while you pull them out of the water and re-locate them to a safe position on shore or where the ice is thicker. Signal for help.

RCMP remind everyone to always avoid going out on ice at night and alone. Dugouts, ponds and any water body should be considered a hazard and inspected before walking or skating across.