What to do if You Fall Through the Ice Jan 16, 2018

Below-normal temperatures across a good portion of the U.S. means many bodies of water that don’t typically freeze are now covered in a layer of ice. As tempting as it might seem, you might want to think twice before walking out on the fresh freeze.

There are ways to tell if the ice is safe. Meteorologist Mike Morrison explains more in the article below.

How to Know When Ice Is Safe

But What if You Fall Through?

Even taking the proper precautions, falling through the ice is an inherent risk you are taking when walking out on that frozen body of water.

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to stay alive.

1. Stay Calm

Once you’ve fallen through the ice, your body will start to do some pretty incredible things. Your heart rate will increase and you will start gasping for air. Though this is a survival mechanism, in water, this isn’t what you want to be doing.

Stay calm, and focus on returning your breath to normal so you can take the next step toward getting out of the ice.

2. Focus on Getting Out

Staying calm, you want to focus on getting out of the water.

  • Get rid of anything weighing you down.
  • If underwater, find the hole you fell through by looking for contrasting light above. Swim for the small spot in the ice that looks different than the rest.
  • At the surface, yell for help if there are people nearby.
  • You must get out quickly. Within minutes the cold water will render your muscles inoperable.

3. Get Yourself Out

Most of the time, you will be on your own. If you fell through it means the ice is too thin for help to reach you safely.
Remember, don’t stress, you can do this.

  • Grab the edge of the ice where you plan on getting out.
  • Get as horizontal as possible in the water
    The ice is too slippery and you aren’t strong enough to just pull yourself to freedom. So you’ll want to take a trick from seals.
  • Once horizontal kick as hard as you can to propel yourself onto the ice.

If that doesn’t work, stop moving. You’ll want to conserve energy and heat if you are waiting for help. You will have about 10 minutes before hypothermia fully sets in.

4. Roll to Safety

Once you are out of the water, the real battle for survival has just begun.

Roll for as long as possible, or until you know the ice is thick enough to support you. Usually this is several feet just to be sure. This is typically about 4″ thick.
Once on your feet, retrace your steps to get off the water— you’ve already walked it once, you know it can hold your weight.

5. Surviving the Cold

If it hasn’t already set in, you’ll want to do anything in your power to avoid hypothermia.

  • Remove wet clothes.
    It seems counter intuitive, but all of that cold water won’t allow your body to warm back up.
  • Find shelter.
    If you can, a building or car will be best. Otherwise, get away from the cold and wind as best as possible.
  • Get Warm.
    If you still have energy, start with some pushups or jumping jacks to get the blood flowing.
    A heater or fire will be your best bet for external heat.
    If you are using warm water bottles or something similar– spot treat the areas with thin skin and high blood-flow. Groin, Armpits, wrists, shoulders, etc.
    Drink warm liquids if possible. The warm cup can help warm your hands.
  • Slow and Steady
    Warming up too fast can be a bad thing. Slow and steady is the way to go!

 

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

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