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VOL. 12 NO. 1
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Ice rescue tips

What to do if you fall through the ice

Ice rescue tips

If you fall through the ice, you should not attempt to climb out immediately. Instead, kick to the surface and get horizontal in the water. Once horizontal, try to slide forward onto the ice. When you get out of the water, avoid standing near the broken ice. Roll away until you’re several body-lengths from the ice break.

A set of ice awls can be used by both rescuers and victims. When the ice awl is jammed down into the ice, a retractable sheath exposes a metal pick, allowing the rescuer to crawl out to the victim or the victim to crawl out of the water onto solid ice.

The rescuer must be protected from danger when attempting to rescue someone who has fallen through the ice. Any device that helps to distribute the rescuer’s weight over a wider area lessens the likelihood of the ice breaking. Rescuers should use some type of equipment to extend their reach and prevent being dragged into the water by the victim. Hockey sticks, ropes, tree branches, ladders, belts and the like are suitable. A water cooler with a line attached makes an excellent buoyant rescue aid.

A flat-bottomed boat, canoe or kayak can easily be slid along the ice until contact is made with the victim. If the ice breaks under the boat, the rescuers have a good platform to continue the rescue or retreat to the safety of the shoreline. The boat should be tethered to shore with a safety line.

If no regular or improvised rescue devices are available, you may need to form a human chain to rescue the victim. To form this chain, several rescuers approach as closely and safely as possible and then lie prone upon the ice to form a chain. Each person holds tightly to the ankles of the person ahead of him. When the lead person grasps the victim, the person nearest shore pulls the others back. If the ice breaks under the weight of the lead person in the chain, the individual can be held and drawn to safety by the others.

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