When Colorado begins experiencing snow and freezing temperatures, area lakes and ponds have start icing over. While the ice may look solid and tempting to walk on, North Metro Fire encourages you to stay off the ice.
Unfortunately, many of ice-related fatalities involve children who drown from falling in the ice. Additionally, many rescues center around dogs that have fallen through the ice and sometimes their owners who run out after them and fall in. These types of incidents are preventable.
Keep you and your family safe
- Always assume that ice is unsafe. Don’t walk out onto ice because the ice likely won’t support the weight of a human being. Ice has its limitations, and the condition of the ice is always changing.
- Ice thickness varies across water. Even if the ice is a foot thick in one area on a lake, it can be one inch thick just a few yards away. It's impossible to judge the strength of ice by its appearance, thickness, daily temperature or snow cover alone.
- Pay attention to the warnings. Look for and obey warning signs posted at lakes or ponds such as: “Beware-Thin Ice” or “Danger Thin Ice. Keep Off.”
Keep your pets off the ice
Remember to keep your dog on a leash around icy bodies of water. Many of the people who find themselves in trouble after an ice accident were trying to rescue a pet that wandered onto the ice. By simply keeping your dog on a leash, you’ll be able to avoid such incidents. If your pet does find its way onto the ice, never go on the ice in an attempt to rescue your four-legged friend. If the ice didn't hold the weight of your dog, it won't hold you. You’ll only be putting yourself in danger. Instead, call 911. Dogs can survive colder temperatures and icy waters much longer than humans and sometimes are even able to rescue themselves. If not, first responders treat animal rescues as seriously as human rescues and will be there in a handful of minutes to perform the rescue.
If you see someone fall through the ice
- Call 911 immediately.
- Remember, “Reach-Throw-Go”.
- If you can safely reach the person while on shore, then try to do so.
- Throw a rope or flotation device from shore to the victim and pull them out to safety. Do not send additional people onto the thin ice to rescue them.
- Encourage the victim to help rescue themselves by using their elbows to crawl on the ice while keeping their body horizontal and kicking to propel them out of the water.
- Go for help if you can’t help the victim.
- Understand that someone can lose consciousness in 10-15 minutes, or suffer hypothermia far sooner. Call 911 for help as soon as possible.
- Once the victim is out of the water, take off wet clothing and wrap the victim in blankets until paramedics arrive – but do not place the person in a hot bath or shower.
Trust in your first responders
Each year, North Metro firefighters undergo ice rescue training to prepare for incidents, whether involving people or animals. Firefighters suit up in special ice rescue suits and must rescue a volunteer victim from across an iced over pond. The suits are naturally buoyant and keep responders dry while they use ropes, poles and a variety of other equipment to aid them in their rescue.
When residents call 911 to report an ice-related incident, North Metro responders will be on scene within a matter of minutes and are trained to safely rescue the victim. Try to be aware of your surroundings and direction in order to give the dispatcher accurate directions for the responders to find you. If you witness the victim going under the water, try to pinpoint specifically the location you last saw the person to help rescuers in their search.
While watching someone struggling to get above the ice can be agonizing for any witness, the best thing you can do is to alert emergency responders, try to encourage the victim to self-rescue or stay calm if they are unable to do so, and help direct responders to the victim as quickly as possible.