Here’s How To Save Yourself If You Fall Through Ice

In the unlikely but totally terrifying event you fall through ice, you need to know what to do.

Winter can be beautiful, especially when everything is covered in a serene-looking blanket of snow. But if you’re spending time outdoors, it’s important to be prepared for any seasonal dangers, including falling through ice that might be hiding under that lovely snow. It may not be something you worry about often, but knowing what to do just in case it happens can sometimes make the difference between life and death.

Falling through frozen ice is obviously extremely scary, but panicking can end up worsening your fate. It’s important to stay calm, and if you know what to do, it’s easier to relax and think clearly so you can get yourself to safety. Here’s what you need to do to save yourself if you happen to fall through ice:

1. Force Yourself To Stay Calm

Because the water is so cold, your body immediately goes into shock in response to the frigid temperature. This shock lasts for 1-3 minutes, and because it causes your heart rate to rapidly accelerate, it can cause you to gasp and hyperventilate. Resist the impulse to panic and breathe more than you need to, as if you happen to gasp and breathe in water while submerged underwater, you could drown immediately. It’s important at this time to focus on staying calm and to control your breathing.

2. Keep Your Head Above Water

Sitting in the almost-freezing water puts you at risk for hypothermia. Depending on conditions, this could take anywhere from 10-45 minutes, but there are ways to buy more time. Keep your head above water and as much of your body as possible out of the water. Remove any objects or heavy clothing that are weighing you down to make it easier to stay afloat.

3. Focus On Getting Out

The longer you stay in the water, the lower your chance of survival is. Instead of treading water and waiting for help, figure out a way out. As time goes on, the cold will weaken your muscles, so it’s important to act fast. Your best bet is to head back to the part of the ice you were walking on, as the edges are likely strong enough to support you getting out.

4. Stay Horizontal

To get yourself out, swim towards the piece of ice and grab onto the edge. Stay as horizontal as possible by getting most of your body out of the water, using your elbows and forearms to prop yourself up. Let some of the water drain off after a few seconds, which can help reduce your weight. Then kick with as much force as possible, which can help get you out of the water.

5. Roll Yourself Across The Ice

Once on the ice, don’t stand up just yet, as you want to keep you weight distributed to avoid falling through again. Roll your body towards hard ground or an area with thicker ice. Try to retrace your steps to safety.

If You Can’t Get Out On Your Own

If after 10 minutes you aren’t able to get out on your own, it’s best to stop moving at this point, as the hypothermia will begin to set in and you won’t be able to use your muscles. Conserve energy by moving as little as possible, and cross your legs to conserve heat as you wait for rescue.

Falling in ice is scary, but staying calm and knowing the proper techniques can help save your life. For more information, check out this video: