Thin Ice Safety Tips

DF SafetyEnvironmental Hazards

Changing temperatures and warmer spring weather can cause ice to form and melt to varying degrees on outdoor bodies of water. Edmonton has many areas with water sources and storm water ponds with potential dangers of thin ice. Read on to learn more about thin ice and get some safety tips. 

What does dangerous ice look like? 

One of the main indicators of the strength of ice is its colour. Clear blue ice is the strongest, white opaque is half as strong as blue ice, and gray ice is unsafe. The grey colour is a sign that water is present and can’t safely bear weight. 

According to the Canadian Red Cross, thickness of ice is important to consider as well. You should allow for 15 cm for walking or skating when alone, 20 cm for skating parties or games, and 25 cm for snowmobiles. If signage is present stating to avoid ice, be sure to follow instructions. It is also recommended to check local ice conditions before using any unknown ice surface.   

What are storm water basins? 

Storm water basins play a key role in keeping neighbourhoods from flooding. They are made to catch excess water runoff when there is heavy rainfall and snowmelt. Water enters these areas from catch basins on the street and through natural surface drainage. While these surfaces are tempting to explore, especially for children, they can be hazardous during the spring. Ice thickness can vary and may contain snow, which makes it difficult to see dangers and water flows. Therefore, use caution and steer clear of storm water basins for your safety.  

How can you keep children and pets safe with ice? 

Remind your children about the dangers of thin ice, ensure they understand to follow signs and rules, and to always keep a safe distance from any forms of ice, especially if they are alone or unsupervised by adults. 

Keep pets close and leashed when passing or near water sources. In many cases, dogs off leash can fall through the ice. During this time of year, it is recommended to keep your pet on leash, or keep a close eye on your surroundings to avoid an emergency.   

What to do in an emergency?  

If you fall into ice and you are alone, you should do the following:   

  • Yell for help  
  • Try your best to stay calm  
  • Keep your warm clothes on as they can help with buoyancy   
  • Turn back toward the direction you fell, and use the solid ice to pull yourself out  
  • Stay horizontal and don’t stand up too soon  
  • Once on back on solid surface, crawl toward the shore, where the ice will likely be thicker  

If you see a person or animal who has fallen through the ice, call 911 immediately. It is best to avoid going onto the ice to help as you could fall in yourself. Keep your eyesight on the person so that you can direct emergency personnel to the area quickly.   

After a long winter, we are all anxious to get out and enjoy the mild weather! Remember to do so safely this spring.