What should you do if you fall through the ice? | NOW

Rescue Brigade Nederland warns skaters of the dangers of natural ice. It is important to make preparations, especially where the water is deep. For example, choose a place that is on Schaatsen.nl is marked as safe or where people are already skating. What should you do if you still fall through the ice?

Anyone who falls through the ice can be faced with cold shock. Its characteristics include an increased heart rate and accelerated breathing. According to a spokesman for the Rescue Brigade, this is mainly a mental problem. “Don’t be led or fooled by your body,” he says.

The first thing you do when your head is above water is breathe in and out slowly. “Get back up and only then try to climb on the ice.” Because of the icy water, everything you do should be “as simple as possible”. So take ice picks with you, is the advice. You can hang these on a rope around your neck, so that they can be reached quickly. This rescue aid is sold by skate shops, but can also be made yourself.

The spokesperson warns that you cannot independently climb out of the water on your stomach. This is because the ice becomes very slippery due to the water that ends up on the ice due to your fall.

Divide your weight over the ice

Without ice picks, depending on your location, you can try to break down the ice so that you clear a way to the side so that you can climb out of the water there. At a small hole in the ice, you can lie on your back and push your feet against the ice, so that you can roll onto the ice. By lying down, you distribute your weight over the ice.

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Carefully roll away from the hole and only stand when you think the ice is strong enough. You can test the ice by first gently standing on your hands and knees. The Rescue Brigade gives a tip that you can roll back to the place where you skated before you fell through the ice.

If you end up under the ice, you have to swim on your back looking for an abnormal, weak spot in the ice. If necessary, you can try to kick a hole in that. According to the Rescue Brigade, you can recognize this place by the contrast difference. As an example, the spokesperson mentions the rafts that are used during swimming lessons. The raft and the hole in it have two different colors.

What do you take with you when you go ice skating?

  • Ice picks with a rope to hang them around your neck. Possibly make it yourself by sawing two pieces (about 15 centimeters) off a broom handle and screwing in a thick screw or driving a thick nail in it. Cut the head of the screw or nail off to form a point.
  • A piece of rope of 5 to 10 meters.
  • Phone in a waterproof bag.
  • Possibly an insulation blanket and an extra set of clothing (sweater, pants, socks, hat and scarf).

‘Don’t just skate on natural ice’

People are advised not to skate on natural ice alone, so that help is always available if someone falls through the ice. Try to pull that person out of the water with a rope, a branch, or items of clothing tied together. If that doesn’t work, call 112. Going to the victim yourself is strongly discouraged because of the weak ice.

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Once out of the water, heat is very important. The combination of water and wind is dangerous. “If you can keep yourself out of the wind, you’re on the right track.” The spokesman points out that nine minutes in ice-cold water can be fatal. Therefore, find a warm place, make yourself small and, if possible, put on dry clothes.

With hypothermia, it is “good and useful to have a professional look at it,” said the spokesperson. In that case, it is important to still call 112 when you are already out of the water. According to the Rescue Brigade, it is smart to take your phone in a waterproof bag as a precaution, so that you can call in help for yourself or others.


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