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Municipality of the District of Chester
Fire & Emergency Response


Thin Ice Think Twice

Someone has fallen through thin ice. It could be a friend or a complete stranger, it doesn't matter who. What does matter is that you know what to do and that you have to act quickly. The longer the person is in the ice-cold water, the shorter his/her chances are of surviving.

If you are not careful helping someone else- you could break through the ice yourself. This fact sheet was created to tell you what you need to do to help someone who has fallen through thin ice. Read it carefully. Someday, it could be a matter of life or death.



1. The first step is DO NOT step on the ice.
If you see someone fall through the ice, keep your distance at first. The ice may not be thick enough to hold you up either; you must act quickly! Yell for help and tell the person not to panic! Call out to the person who has fallen in and tell them to grab as far up onto the edge of the ice as he/she can and to start kicking their feet- like in swimming. The kicking motion will help keep the person afloat and it is possible that the person may be able to swim right up onto the ice.

2. Extend your reach.
If calling out the steps to self-rescue does not work, your going to have to physically help them out. Quickly look for something you can use to help pull the person out to safety. It can be a tree branch, a hockey stick, a ladder, a belt, a scarf, a jacket, or anything. Try reaching them from shore first, remember as soon as you go out onto the ice you to are in danger of falling through. This makes the situation even more difficult to resolve and now there are two victims instead of one. If you have to go out on the ice lie down and slowly crawl towards the hole. This distributes your weight over a greater surface area and should prevent you from falling through the ice. When you get close enough, extend whatever you are holding to the person in the water and tell them person to keep kicking. This will help propel the person out while you are doing the pulling.

3. Roll or crawl to safety.
Both people should roll or crawl to shore; this lowers the chance that you will fall through the ice again.

4. The human chain.
If there are other people around, you can form a human chain by lying flat on the ice; each person should hold the ankles of the person ahead of them. The first person in the chain can extend their reach.

5. What to do after.
After you reach safety, get the person warm and dry as soon as you can. The next best thing is get them to a hospital as the person may be suffering from shock or from the affects of hypothermia and not know it.


Self Rescue

1. Don't panic. Yell for help.

2. Reach out with your arms and break away the weak ice in front of you. Grab as far up on the ice as you can and kick your feet behind you so your body becomes horizontal.

3. Pull yourself onto the ice while kicking your feet.

4. Stay flat on the ice and roll to safety.

5. Get to the hospital. Although you may feel fine, you could still be hypothermic and his condition needs to be treated with great care.


- On salt water
- On rivers affected by tides
- On wind swept lakes
- On fast running streams
- During thawing spells where ice is less than 15cm thick
- Where there is water on the surface of the ice
- Where there are cracks in the ice

- Fluctuating water levels caused by tides make inshore ice unsafe.
- Snow covered ice may not be safe. Snow acts as an insulator and prevents the ice from freezing completely. If unfrozen areas are visible stay off the ice.
- Ice around stumps or pilings is often weakened by shifting and expansion.
- Ice is usually thinner where a brook or river enters a body of water.
- Fluctuating weather and temperatures affect the safety of the ice. Remember, sun and rain melts the ice.
- Underwater springs or streams with flowing water will cause weak spots by keeping the water circulating.


 For more information please refer to the RED CROSS Safety Presentation and the Ice Safety FAQS.