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Stay off the ice to prevent drowning, alliance says

January 31, 2011

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Huntington Beach, CA – On the heels of two young siblings drowning in Missouri, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance issued a warning about the dangers of walking, skating or playing on frozen bodies of water. According to NDPA, no ice is safe ice.

“Ice seldom freezes uniformly,” NDPA board member Gerald M. Dworkin said. “It will be thinner when it has formed over moving water, and where it surrounds partially submerged objects such as rocks or tree limbs.” Dworkin said even fish moving underwater can compromise the integrity of the ice above.

If you fall through ice, NDPA recommends:

  • Do not try to climb out immediately. Instead, kick to get horizontal in the water and try to slide onto solid ice.
  • Once out of the water, roll away and avoid standing until you are several body lengths away from the ice break.

If you witness someone else falling through the ice:

  • Call or have someone else call 911 immediately.
  • Try to throw an improvised assist, such as an empty jug with a line attached, to the victim.
  • If going onto the ice to retrieve the victim is unavoidable, use a device to distribute the rescuer’s weight over a wide area. Such devices include flat-bottom boats, ladders and boogie boards.
  • Use a reaching assist – such as a branch or hockey stick – to extend the reach of the rescuer.

NDPA further cautions against allowing pets to walk on ice, noting that approximately 85 percent of ice emergency 911 calls result from people falling through the ice while trying to rescue a pet. Owners should never attempt to rescue a pet themselves.

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