Q. With the past week’s unusually cold temperatures, now seems like an appropriate time to remind children what to do should they ever fall through thin ice. What should parents teach their kids?
A. Remind kids that it’s never a good idea to walk onto an apparently frozen lake or other body of water; some areas can be thinner than others.
“Especially here in our area, I wouldn’t venture out onto any water at all,” says Bobby Hazen, drowning prevention through education coordinator for Saf-T-Swim, with 12 Long Island locations. “It’s never cold enough for an extended period of time to freeze the ice thick enough to be able to support your weight.”
The United States Swim School Association offers this advice if you fall through ice:
Brace yourself: Due to the immediate shock from the cold water, you’re going to gasp for air and hyperventilate. Breathing in the freezing water increases the chances of drowning.
Keep calm: Do not flail your arms; this will release more body heat. Grab onto the ice in the direction you came from. This ice should be strong enough to help you out of the water.
Do not undress: Keep winter clothing on; it won’t drag you down. It will help keep in body heat and any air inside the clothing will help you float.
Get horizontal: Once you’ve gotten most of your upper body out of the water, kick your legs as strongly as possible to get yourself onto the ice. Do not stand; roll over the ice to prevent more cracks and falling in again.
Retrace your steps: Once far enough away from the hole, slowly retrace your footsteps back to safety.
Get warm: Seek medical attention to bring body temperature back to normal.
Remind kids that rescuers should never enter the water. Instead, they should throw a branch, coat or rope into the water, wait until the person in the water grabs hold and then tow the person to safety. Otherwise both people could end up in the water.