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Don't Break the Ice!

Have you ever been out on a frozen body of water, like a lake or pond? Learn more about how to stay safe on ice and what to do in case of an emergency!

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Plan

  • Does anyone in your group have experience with ice safety? 
  • Where will you practice what to do if someone falls through the ice? A field or even the floor of a gym is a good place to start.  
  • Where can you learn more about ice safety? 

Do

As a group, talk about ice thickness, then take turns practicing rescuing and being rescued. You can use a circle of rope on the ground to represent a hole in the ice. Obviously you cannot practice all parts, but some of these actions can be practiced while you’re safe on land! 

Part 1: How thick should ice be? 

  • Some places will regularly check the ice of local rivers, lakes or ponds and will share the ice thickness with the public. Check local advisories before heading out on any ice. 
  • Ice needs to be at least 10cm (4 inches) thick for a person to walk on. Any thinner than that, and you risk breaking through. 
  • Avoid shorelines – even solid-looking ice on a shore may be weak. 
  • When in doubt, stay off the ice!

Part 2: What to do if someone falls through the ice 

  • If someone falls through the ice, do NOT approach the hole. The ice may break under you. 
  • Call for help. 
  • Help from a distance – use encouragement and tell the person to stay calm. Use a “long assist” like a rope, ladder, hockey stick, etc. 
  • When the person in the water grabs the assist, gently pull to ease them out. Ask them to kick their feet in the water to help. 
  • Ask them to crawl along the ice with their feet spread. The more their weight is spread, the less likely they are to break through again. If possible, they can even lay on their stomach and pull themselves along with their arms while they push themselves with their toes. 
  • Get the person to a warm location. Remove wet clothing and treat for hypothermia. 

Part 3: What to do if you fall through the ice 

  • Stay calm. The more you move and thrash, the more energy you will use up. 
  • Turn toward the direction you came from and place your hands and arms flat on the unbroken ice. 
  • Kick your feet and try to push yourself up on the unbroken ice on your stomach (like a seal) 
  • Once on the ice, DO NOT stand up. Roll away from the broken ice, then crawl away from the hole on your stomach, using your arms to pull and feet to push. 

Review

  • What is something you know now that you did not know before? 
  • What will you do differently based on what you’ve learned? 
  • What was challenging about this activity? 

Keep it Simple

  • Break the process down into smaller steps and practice them one at a time. Practice rolling away as if you just got out of the water, then practice pulling yourself along the floor on your stomach. 
  • You can also practice in a pool! Next time you go swimming, try to pull yourself out by holding onto the side of the pool and kicking your legs.  

Take it Further

  • This is an important skill for everyone to know. Make the different rescue steps into a skit and share it with family and friends or with a younger Section.