DANGER! THIN ICE!…
Even shallow lakes, with ice thicknesses measuring in double digits, can have patches of dangerously thin ice. Add to that the constant threat of weak ice along rivers and streams where the under current can keep the water from freezing and forming adequate weight-bearing layers and you have the potential for falling through the ice.
Steps you can take to rescue yourself:
Exercise breathing control! You are better off letting the gasping sequence pass – usually 1-3 minutes. You need to get control of your breathing – and keep from swallowing water should you slip below the surface while you are struggling.
Escape from the side where you broke through – you know that back ice is strong – but not if the ice beyond is even thick enough.
Keep body horizontal – kick and pull. Try to keep arms out beyond edge of break; kick as you would when swimming; trying to pull with hands and fingers. (You may have to break edge of thinner ice back to find a stronger, supportive thickness).
Always keep arms extended out onto ice. If you succumb to the cold and pass out, your sleeves may freeze to the ice keeping you from slipping down below the surface. This also keeps a portion of your upper body out of the water (heat loss by water is 25X faster than by cold air).
Roll away from the hole. Once out onto the ice, don’t try to stand! First roll, then crawl to solid ice or ground.
As a rescuer – your safety comes first. Stop/Think/Send for help. Reassure victim; offer instructions (all those points above).
From a safe distance, push something toward the victim to grab onto (branch, ladder, etc.) Offer a rope or even an extension cord with a looped end that can slip around shoulder and hook under arm, and pull victim out to safety.
Consider carrying along “ice grabbers” (commercial or home-made) whenever traversing ice.