Over the festive period and into the new year many of us will seek the outdoors to maybe walk off any overindulgence or just to get out to enjoy the fresh air. Areas with frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can be beautiful places to visit but all too often many people risk their lives by venturing onto frozen water so we urge everyone to take extra care.
Frozen water can be a particular hazard however don’t put yourself or others at risk by ignoring safety advice. Where rivers and lakes have frozen do not be tempted to set foot on the ice. Information from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) shows that over 50% of ice related drownings involved an attempted rescue of another person or a dog. In many instances dogs have managed to scramble ashore unaided while the owner did not.
Many areas of water in parks and moorland used to be gravel pits and it can be easy to underestimate how dangerous they can be as there are often shallow shelves dropping without notice into very deep water as well as thick aquatic vegetation as part of the natural environment.
In many rural areas and near parklands pathways, roads and car parks can also be slippery when icy so always take care when walking or driving.
To remain safe around frozen water:
- Think SAFE – Stay Away From the Edge
- Do not ice skate on frozen water
- Do not attempt to rescue wildlife stranded on the ice
- If the ice gives way, it can cause hypothermia and ultimately drowning
- If you see anyone or any animal in danger, call 999 urgently for help
- Do discuss the dangers of playing on or near frozen water, so children are aware
- Do make sure you know where your children are while out and about
- Do not leave children unsupervised near frozen ponds, rivers, lakes or other bodies of water
- Do keep your dog on a lead at all times near frozen water
- Do not throw balls and sticks for your dog near frozen water
- Do not follow or attempt to fetch back your dog if it goes onto the ice
- Do not attempt to try to rescue a dog if it gets into trouble, you will put your own life in danger
- Call 999 for help
If you see someone get into trouble:
- Call the emergency services 999
- Do not attempt to go out on the ice yourself
- Tell the person to ‘keep still’ to maintain heat and energy, and offer reassurance to keep them clam
- Try finding something which will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole, clothing tied together or branch
- Once ensuring you are stable on the bank either by lying down or having someone hold on to you, throw the object out and pull them in
- If you cannot find something to reach with, try finding an object that will float and throw that out to them
- Ensure that you keep off the ice at all times during the rescue, continue to reassure the casualty and keep them talking until help arrives
- Once the person has been rescued, keep them warm by covering them with warm clothing, blankets etc. Do not undress them until they are in a warm place
- Do not rub their skin and do not give an alcoholic drink
- The casualty must go to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected
Further tips and advice:
- Always let others know where you walking and put on extra layers when out in the park during winter months
- In icy conditions many car parks, paths and bridges could be slippery under foot
- Be aware of your surroundings, nearby access routes or names of car parks should you need to provide location information to emergency services
There is also loads of great information and advice available through the RNLI covering Cold Water Shock here.
One final tip is to checkout and download the @What3Words app to your phone as this is a really simple way to share your location through a unique 3 word address that relates to where you are down to a 3m x 3m square. This system of location sharing is becoming more and more popular and in particular is being used by many emergency services so if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know exactly where you are (in the middle of a park or unnamed road) and need to call 999 then tell them your What3Words address to help get assistance quicker! #what3words