Shoe stepping on thin ice and cracking it

Beware of Thin Ice this Spring

DF Safety Environmental Hazards

Spring has sprung and the weather is finally warming up. As temperatures continue to rise, many more people are heading outside to enjoy the sunshine. With more traffic through areas with water sources, such as the River Valley in Edmonton and storm water ponds in neighbourhoods, it is important to remember to keep in mind some potential hazards. One specific danger is thin ice. 

While enjoying the outdoors, be aware of thin ice this time of year. Depending on changing temperatures, ice can form and melt to varying degrees on outdoor bodies of water.  

Signs of dangerous ice 

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 greyness is a sign that water is present. 

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 you decide to step foot onto any unknown ice surface.  

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, snow can still cover parts which makes it difficult to see dangers and water flows continuously underneath. Therefore, use caution and steer clear of storm water basins for your safety. 

Keep pets and children safe 

If you are walking your pet, ensure you keep them close when passing or near water sources. In many cases, dogs off leash can fall through the ice, which can be prevented. 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.  

It is also important to 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. 

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.  

Take advantage of the mild weather and enjoy outside, safely, this spring!