As the weather starts to warm up and the ice melts it's best to lead with caution when it comes to skating or walking on frozen bodies of water like Kinsmen Lake.
Strathmore Fire Department (SFD) Deputy Chief Eric Alexander advises caution if you're considering skating on Kinsmen Lake or other outdoor bodies of water.
“We checked the depth of the ice on Tuesday, and it was about 20 inches which is plenty of ice for anyone to enjoy safely but the problem is that we have such rapid changes in the weather, and all the snow that is melting off roads can create unsafe conditions quickly so probably at that point we would advise people to not be on the ice.”
Alexander added the main concern is the strong melts as the weather warms up, and Kinsmen Lake being a storm pond means all the water runs into it, thus eroding ice.
If you find yourself in a situation where you fall in ice, what should you do?
“We would train people the same way that we train our firefighters. The most important thing that you can do is to stay calm. You will notice that it is extremely cold extremely fast, and you would want to try and stay calm. Focus on your breathing and holding onto any ice shelf that may be around you and start calling for help.”
Alexander then recommends getting someone that is close by to call 9-1-1 and then the fire department will be there shortly and will use their highly trained equipment to get you out of the ice. It is encouraged that you try and self-rescue.
“If they are in moderate to good shape and they can control their breathing and are comfortable on the ice shelf, they can kick their feet and use their forearms to grab the ice surface and try and kick themselves up onto the ice ledge and then roll on the ice.”
The important thing is to stay as close to the ground as possible and get as many points of contact as possible on the ice. That is why rolling is encouraged so that it disputes the weight over a large surface area and then there is less chance that you will break through.
What if you're a bystander? Alexander explains the first step is to call 9-1-1.
“If there are two bystanders you will want to have one talk to the victim in the ice and try to get them to remain calm and try to get their arms onto an ice shelf and then the other person to call for 9-1-1 and if you are a parent and your kid fell through you don’t want to run in after them. Chances are that your kid weighs less than you, so chances are that you are breaking through the ice as well.”
It's also not a good idea to run after your dog that has fallen into the ice since dogs are less predictable than humans because they don’t understand what is going on.
“They go into in panic mode, so their animal instincts take over most of the time. Rescuers have been bitten and mauled when they have been out on the ice. They don’t understand that we are trying to help them.”
The SFD has done over 300 hours of ice rescue training this winter, and says the best advice is to pay attention to what the ice is doing, keep a close eye on your children and keep your animals on a leash.
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