This time of year several water bodies are frozen, but not completely, which is why the Cottleville Fire District is issuing a reminder to “stay off the ice” when
near water. The department reports that some sources have estimated up to 250 number of people die each year in the U.S. after falling through ice-covered waterways.
Hypothermia and frostbite can set in quickly when it’s this cold outside. The situation becomes even more dangerous if you ever fall through a frozen body of water. “Cold water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature and, as a result, the body core immediately begins to lose heat to the outside environment,” says Public Fire Educator Dan Faulkner. “Within 10 minutes, a person may lose dexterity and motor function in their extremities and is at risk of drowning.” In the event you witness an ice emergency you should not venture onto the ice to attempt a rescue, instead call for help first and stay on the shore line and try to keep the victim calm until help arrives.
The Cottleville Fire District conducts annual ice rescue training for all its firefighters, this helps to keep them proficient with their rescue techniques, and informed in the case of any new rescue techniques that may come available.
What should you do if you fall through the ice? First, try not to panic. This may be easier said than done, unless you have worked out a survival plan in advance. Read through these steps so that you can be prepared.
- Don’t remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won’t drag you down, but instead can trap air to provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.
- Turn toward the direction you came. That’s probably the strongest ice.
- Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. This is where a pair of nails, sharpened screwdrivers or ice picks come in handy in
providing the extra traction you need to pull yourself up onto the ice.
- Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto the solid ice. If your clothes have trapped a lot of water, you may have to lift yourself partially out of the water on your elbows to let the water drain before starting forward.
- Lie flat on the ice once you are out and roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out. This may help prevent you from breaking through again.
- Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and re-warm yourself immediately. In moderate to severe cases of cold water hypothermia, you must seek medical attention. Cold blood trapped in your extremities can come rushing back to your heart after you begin to re-warm. The shock of the
chilled blood may cause ventricular fibrillation leading to a heart attack and death!
These self-rescue techniques are recommended by: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.