If you're fancying a game of pond hockey or shinny, you might want to be cautious about where you plan to skate outdoors.

High Rivers Fire Chief Lance Bushie says, when it comes to the Highwood River, it's best to veer on the side of safety and avoid skating on it entirely.

"The river itself is a special piece of ice sheet, that forms differently depending on the flows, freeze and thaw and the rocks which can all affect how the ice sheet forms on the river.  We recommend you stay off the river, it can change rapidly with the water levels going up and down, which affects the stability of that sheet of ice."

Bushie says if you plan on using the ponds around town for ice skating, make sure your party measures ice thickness, prior to skating.

"They're (ponds) not monitored by the town, so we caution anybody that plans on going out on the ice sheets around town. The big thing about those ponds is that you need to be checking the ice. There's nothing that says you can't, but we advise from a safety point of view, that you check the ice conditions first. Note that with the shifting Chinook weather that keeps coming back and forth, the warmer weather will erode the ice and varying temperatures can crack the ice. You'll also need an auger or an ice pick to be able to make those measurements."

The Canadian Red Cross website provides the following guidelines for safe ice skating:

  • 15 cm for walking or skating alone
  • 20 cm for skating parties or games
  • 25 cm for snowmobiles.

Bushie says prevention is the best measure, however his fire crew is trained to deal with emergency situations when it comes to falling through thin ice, but there's a few safety tips one should keep in mind while waiting on help.

"We recommend that if you do happen to be in a situation where you fall through the ice, is to firstly, remain calm. Moving in the water will lose heat faster in your body than if you just stay calm and still. Your clothing will provide insulation even though it gets wet, it will also provide buoyancy due to air being trapped in it. So stay still and orient yourself towards wherever you fell in, as that's likely towards where the thicker ice remains - where you fell in."

From there you'll need to get help and Bushie says you shouldn't be making an outdoor skating excursion alone.

"We recommend if your going on ice to begin with, that you have someone with you. Call 9-1-1 right away so that help can arrive as soon as possible. You can help the person who fell through the water by encouraging them to keep still while help arrives and if you have the ability to reach or throw something to someone in the water to pull them out, the quicker you can do that the better. The longer they're in the water, the less dexterity and thinking abilities you have as you become hypothermic. Of course, this should be done safely, don't become a victim yourself, it makes the whole situation a lot more complicated."

At the end of the day, Bushie says to just avoid the ice for the time being.

"If you can avoid the ice, I'd recommend that first, and if you do go out, make sure you're not alone and that you bring all your equipment and gear back home."

 

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