Manitobans urged to be cautious and take precautions around ice

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It is now December and the weather continues to get colder in Manitoba, which means ice activities will start to increase.

Manitoba Public Insurance along with Lifesaving Society Manitoba is reminding all Manitobans to be aware of the ice and to check if it is safe before going on it.

Dr. Christopher Love, the water smart and safety management coordinator with the Lifesaving Society, said people need to take the proper steps before going onto the ice.

"No ice is ever 100 per cent safe," said Love. "So no matter what you do, you can never be guaranteed of a specific outcome."

Love said people should be wearing some type of device that can help them float if they do fall into the ice.

"You're going to manage to keep your head above the surface, so you can keep breathing, you're not going to get trapped underneath the ice."

He added you should have another person with you to help if something goes wrong and another person who is staying on shore should be aware of where you are going, what you are doing and when you are going to be back.

"So if you get in trouble, your buddy gets in trouble, neither of you check back in at the appropriate time, help can be summoned."

If someone takes all the appropriate steps before going to the ice, but they still fall in, Love says they will be in good shape to get back onto land.

"The first thing that is going to happen when you go into that cold water is you're going to be hit by what is called cold shock."

He said this will cause someone to start hyperventilating for a couple of minutes.

"Once you have managed to calm yourself down, calm your breathing down a little bit, you're going to turn around and you're going head back to the direction you were coming from.

He said then people should get their hands over the ice, kick their legs and then belly slide onto the ice. Once on the ice, Love suggests the person roll or crawl back to shore.

Then when back on shore the appropriate measures can be done, like calling for help.

CHECKING THE THICKNESS OF ICE

In terms of checking the thickness of ice to determine what can go on it, Love said the best practice is to attend areas that are measured and updated regularly.

If people attend other areas, they must measure the ice themselves, using an ice auger to cut holes in the ice and then measure the thickness.

Love says many areas on the ice need to measured to ensure the proper safety.

Brian Smiley, with MPI, said if the ice isn't thick enough to hold vehicles it could mean they could get trapped.

"Since 2015, Manitoba Public Insurance has opened about 100 claims related to vehicles going through thin ice," said Smiley.

He said early December is usually when there is an uptick in these claims, noting these situations can be very dangerous.

"Typically there's one or two people in a vehicle, they're driving out onto the ice, they'll go through the ice and again it could be potentially fatal."

Love said the most important thing is everyone is safe while on the ice.

"Make sure that every trip becomes a round trip when they go out for this winter's activities," said Love.

More information can be found on Lifesaving Society Manitoba's website.