If you know the story of Jack Frost, as told in the movie "Rise of the Guardians", you know one of my greatest fears: falling through ice and drowning. Is it paranoia or a healthy fear? Looking at statistics from the Red Cross, we would all do well to learn some ice safety tips. Did you know that about 45 people in Canada die each year from falling through ice and the largest number of deaths occurs in the Prairies1? Ice accidents are highly preventable if you take precautions!
From 1991-2000, a third of the victims (34%) fell through ice while fishing, hunting, skating, walking, or playing on ice, about half (55%) were snowmobiling, and 11% were driving other types of vehicles2. Sadly, children 14 and under accounted for 40% of deaths3. How can we minimize the risk of recreational activities on and around ice?
- Use Designated Ice Surfaces4: Many towns designate skating areas in city parks and trained personnel regularly check the ice, to reduce risk of accidents. You should still evaluate conditions before heading onto the ice as ice conditions vary from day to day and throughout the day and always heed "Thin Ice" / "Stay Off The Ice" warnings, if applicable.
- CHECK THE ICE - Wear a lifejacket while testing & keep a buddy nearby
- Ice color: Clear, blue, or green ice is the strongest. Stay off of brown or white ice - white ice has snow in it and is weak5; brown, spring ice is also weak even if it measures the right thickness.
- Ice thickness: Stay off of ice less than 4 inches thick!6 Thickness can vary over a water body, so check the ice in several spots before allowing others onto it. To accurately check, you must bore into the ice with an ice auger, ice chisel, or drill, then measure with a tape measure. For people up to 200 pounds, the minimum recommended ice thickness is 4 inches. Snowmobiles or ATVs require the ice to be at least 5 inches thick7.
- Ice Quality: Stay off the ice if it is thin, broken, cracked, or discolored (white or brown). Where fatalities occurred, "the most common ice condition was thin ice at 57%, followed by an open hole in the ice at 21%, cracked ice 8%, and ice floe 8%."8
- Type of Water Body: NEVER GO ON ICE OVER MOVING WATER! Do not travel on ice on rivers, reservoirs, or lake inflow/outflows! "Reservoirs accounted for 19% of all ice drowning."9
- Weather Conditions: Rapid cooling is just as dangerous as rapid warming. Rapid warming can cause melting, while rapid cooling can cause ice to crack10. Ice strength can change throughout the day, so always test the ice before allowing others onto it!
A list of outdoor skating rinks in Calgary, may be found here: http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/Outdoor-skating-rinks.aspx
Stay informed and stay safe, everyone!
Love, Mama Bear
References1, 2, 9, 13, 14 Drownings and other Water Related Injuries in Canada, The Red Cross http://www.redcross.ca/crc/documents/3-3-4_10drwn_english.pdf
3, 8, 11, 12, 17 Drownings and other Water Related Injuries in Canada, 10 Years of Research, The Red Cross, April 19, 2006 http://www.redcross.ca/crc/documents/3-3-4_ws_final_m2_english2006_04_19.pdf
4, 5, 6, 7, 15, 16 Ice Safety Tips, Life Saving Society http://www.lifesaving.org/public_education.php?page=181
10 Water Smart Facts - Ice Myths, Life Saving Society http://www.lifesaving.org/download/Ice%20Myths_2.pdf
18 Stay Alive, Stay Ice Smart, Life Saving Society http://www.lifesavingsociety.com/who%E2%80%99s-drowning/ice-safety.aspx