Stay safe by practicing ice safety this winter
The cold temperatures associated with a typical Ontario winter make it possible for children and adults to enjoy outdoor activities on frozen lakes and ponds. Skating, hockey and ice fishing are only a few of the activities people get to enjoy once the water freezes and it’s safe to head out onto the ice. Understanding a few basic things about ice at this time of year can go a long way toward keeping you and your children safe.
How deep must the ice be?
What you plan to do on the ice is a significant factor in determining how thick it must be before you can safely go on it. The following are some of the most common activities people engage in on frozen lakes and ponds and the depth the ice should be to ensure safety:
- Walking or ice skating by yourself: 15 cm
- Skating parties or playing hockey: 20 cm
- Riding snowmobiles: 25 cm
There are a number of factors in addition to air temperature contributing to how thick the ice gets, including:
- Depth of the water
- Movement of the water, including tides and currents
- Salt or chemicals in the water
- Heat-absorbing objects in the water, such as docks or bulkheads, logs and rocks
- Effect of vehicles riding on the ice
Vehicles travelling on frozen bodies of water can create shock waves that can weaken the ice. If ice is a grey colour, it is unsafe and you should not go on it. The strongest ice is clear blue.
Ice safety with children
When taking children onto the ice, particularly when ice skating or playing hockey, make them wear a helmet approved for skating or hockey. Falling on ice, even when walking, can result in a serious head injury. Do not allow a child to wear a helmet that is too large or too small because it will not provide the protection needed in a fall.
Children should be dressed in layers of clothing that can be removed or replaced as air temperatures change or as the children warm up from their on-ice activities. Gloves or mittens and hats are a must to prevent frostbite.
What to do when trouble arises
Before going out to a frozen lake, pond or river let others know where you are going and the time you expect to return. If you do not return at the anticipated time, at least someone will realize it and alert authorities that you might be in trouble.
If you see someone fall into the water, resist the temptation to run out to them. The ice is obviously weak for the person to have fallen through it, so your weight could cause it to crack even more and leave you calling out for a rescuer. Instead, call the police or firefighters for assistance.
When an emergency situation requires that you go onto the ice to assist someone, wear a personnel flotation device, if one is available. Bring a rope, tree branch or pole with you to extend your reach, so you do not have to get too close to the location of the weak ice. As you approach the broken ice, you should be on your stomach to distribute your weight and prevent further breaking of the ice. Use the rope or pole to reach out to the person.
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