Wiťh temperatures dropping below freezing this week, London Fire Brigade is appealing for the public to stay safe around frozen lakes and waterways.
It might be tempting to walk or play on frozen water, but the ice can easily break. In December 2022, four children died after falling into an icy lake in the West Midlands.
Assistant Commissioner for Prevention and Protection, Charlie Pugsley, said: “Even if ice appears thick from the bank, it becomes thinner very quickly. Keep away from the edge of the open water, especially slippery banks.
“If you fall in, the temperature of icy water is cold enough to take your breath away, which can easily lead to panic and drowning. The coldness can make your arms and legs numb which means you can’t control them and can’t swim. It can lead to hypothermia – a serious reduction in your body temperature – which can cause heart failure. This happens even to the strongest swimmers.”
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 50% of ice related drownings involve the attempted rescue of a dog.
In January last year (2023), London firefighters rescued a teenager and a dog from an icy pond on Whipps Cross Road in Leytonstone. They were trapped quite a way from the shore in a pond that had frozen over, and firefighters used water rescue equipment to bring them to safety.
It’s important to keep your dog on a lead near ice and frozen waters and do not throw sticks or balls onto the ice.
RSPCA Pet Welfare Specialist Dr Sam Gaines said: “Our advice at the RSPCA is to keep dogs away from frozen ponds, lakes or rivers which can pose a danger and make sure their paws do not get impacted with snow.
“It is best to walk dogs away from frozen water or keep them on the lead if it’s unavoidable. If your dog ventures onto the ice, never follow them onto it, instead call them to come back to you right away, but if they get stuck call fire and rescue services for help.
“Owners should never try to risk rescuing their pet themselves as they could get themselves into a dangerous situation.”
What to do if you fall through ice
- Keep calm and shout for help
- Spread your arms across the surface of the ice in front of you
- If you cannot climb out, keep as still as possible with your head clear of the water and wait for help to arrive
- If the ice is strong enough kick your legs to slide onto the ice
- Lie flat on the ice and pull yourself towards the bank
- Once out of the water roll away to prevent further cracks i.e flat and pull yourself towards the bank
- Seek medical attention immediately
What to do if someone else falls through the ice
- Don’t go onto the ice or into the frozen water if you see a person or animal getting into difficulty
- Stay on the bank, shout for help and phone 999
- Shout to the person to keep still, hold their head above water. Offer reassurance to keep them calm
- If the person is too far away to help them from the safety of the bank, do not attempt to rescue them
- Try to keep your eyes on the person at all times, especially in moving water
- Try to find something that will float to throw or push out to them
- Wait for the emergency services to arrive