Winter Ice Safety

A Message from Conception Bay South Fire Department
Milder temperatures during the cold winter months are often a welcome break. However, it also causes the once frozen ponds to become less safe. When heading out onto frozen ponds be sure to check the ice first. Ice thickness should be 15cm for walking or skating alone, 20 cm for skating parties or games and 25 cm for snowmobiles.

Many factors affect the thickness of ice including: type of water, location, the time of the year, and other environmental factors such as:

  • Water depth and size of body of water
  • Currents, tides and other moving water
  • Chemicals including salt
  • Logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun
  • Changing air tempature
  • Shock waves from vehicles traveling on the ice

The colour of the ice may be an indication of its strength with clear blue ice being the strongest. White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Opque ice formed by wet snow freezing on the ice. Grey ice is unsafe as the grayness indicates the presence of water.

What to do if you fall through the ice

When you are alone on the ice and break though, call out for help. Resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in. The ice is weak in this area. Use the air tracked in your clothing to get into a floating position on your stomach. Reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down. Kick your legs to push your torso on the ice. When your back on the ice, crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your and legs spread out as far as possible to evenly distribute your body weight. Do not stand up! Look for shore and make sure you are going in the right direction.

When you are with others on ice and someone breaks through. Rescuing another person from ice can be dangerous. The safest way to perform a rescue is from shore. Call for help. Consider whether you can quickly get help from trained professionals (police, fire fighters or ambulance) or bystanders. Check if you can reach the person using a long pole or branch from shore – if so, lie down and extend the pole to the person. If you go onto the ice, wear a PFD and carry a long pole or branch to test the ice in front of you. Bring something to reach or through the person (e.g. pole, weighted rope, line or tree branch). When near the break, lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole. Remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device (pole, rope, line or branch) to the person. Have the person kick while you pull them out. Move the person to a safe position on shore or where you are shore the ice is thick. Signal for help.

Pictured: Fire Chief John Heffernan and Capt. Fred Kennedy during an Ice Water Rescue training exercise.