Beware of ‘rotten’ ice

Spring can soften ice that still looks safe, but it’s not.

MEMBERS OF the Terrace Water Rescue Team joined the Terrace Scouts in an Ice Safety Training exercise March 17.

The Scouts learned what to do if they fall through ice, self-rescue techniques and how to package and care for a person who has fallen through ice.

As the temperature rises and the seasons change, knowing the dangers of ice and how to respond if someone falls through it become more important.

It is important for people to know what to look for when walking, skating or snowmobiling on or near ice and what to do during and after an accident and rescue.

Ice is constantly changing in response to weather and water conditions. That’s why ice is never 100 per cent safe, even when you’ve tested its thickness.

The Lifesaving Society recommends a minimum ice thickness of 10 cm (4 inches) for a single person to walk, ice fish, or cross-country ski on it.

Remember, though, that this recommendation is for new, clear ice under ideal conditions.

Spring ice is rotten ice; it is beginning to break down and becoming weak, even though it still retains much of its original thickness.

Spring ice is unpredictable because of warming weather patterns; the best advice is to stay off it.

The Alberta Lifesaving Society advises that spring ice can collapse suddenly without warning.

Even thick ice may be weak, if it has frozen and thawed repeatedly or if it contains layers of snow or water.

Snow on top of ice acts like an insulating blanket – ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. New snowfalls can also insulate, warm up and melt existing ice.

Each winter in Canada someone dies in an ice-related incident, and countless others fall through the ice and have a close brush with death.

Consider the following factors:

• rotting ice begins to look grey and splotchy;

• beware: ice can erode from the bottom up with no obvious warning signs on top;

• melting upstream can create runoff that weakens river ice;

• ice near shore will melt more quickly;

• saline (salt) water runoff from roads and melting snow dumps can create “hot spots” that weaken ice;

• tree stumps, rocks and docks absorb heat from the sun, causing ice around them to melt.

For an ice rescue: first call 911.

Be careful as you can fall through the ice too.

Anyone on or near weak ice should slowly lie down. Use a long reaching assist, i.e. rope, stick or ladder.

Tell the person to kick and slowly ease out of the water. Have that person crawl away or roll away from the broken ice.

Make sure you are both far enough away from the hole before standing up. Help the person into dry clothes and treat for hypothermia.