Icy lakes danger warning

PEOPLE are today being warned of the dangers of frozen-over lakes in a bid to avoid needless deaths.

Simon Tomlinson

PEOPLE are today being warned of the dangers of frozen-over lakes in a bid to avoid needless deaths.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) issued the advisory as forecasters predict one of the coldest winters in 100 years.

The freezing conditions have already sparked a flurry of calls to RoSPA from people concerned about the danger of heading on to the ice on frozen lakes.

At around this time last year, RoSPA urged people to steer clear of deep frozen waterways, but it didn't prevent two people dying when ice gave way beneath them. By far, the majority of the incidents involved children or dog walkers.

Peter Cornall, RoSPA's head of leisure safety, said: “Winter is a great time for children and adults to get out and about, but ice-related drownings are entirely and easily preventable. Be very careful around the edges of lakes because snow can obscure them, and keep your dog on a lead.

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“Although frozen water can look tempting, there's simply no way of knowing whether it will hold your weight and by the time you find out that it won't it's often too late.

“Children are among those most at risk because frozen lakes present natural ice skating opportunities. So, with thousands of children off school today, and possibly for longer, we are encouraging parents to talk to their children about the hazards of frozen water when playing outside.”

Analysis of a recent ten-year period shows that 20 people died in the UK after falling through ice into water. Many others had to be rescued and revived.

More than half of the incidents in which someone died involved the attempted rescue of another person or a dog. In many instances, the dog managed to scramble out to safety when the owner did not.

Mr Cornall added: “In addition to keeping dogs on leads, it also makes sense to avoid throwing sticks or balls on to the ice for them to retrieve.”

If someone falls through the ice:

Call the emergency services

Do not attempt to go out on to the ice yourself

Tell the person to stay still to maintain heat and energy

Try finding something which will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole or branch

Throw the object out and, once ensuring you are stable on the bank either by lying down or having someone hold on to you, pull them in

If you cannot find something to reach with, try finding an object that will float and push that out to them

Ensure that you keep off the ice at all times during the rescue, continue to reassure the casualty and keep them talking until help arrives

Once the person has been rescued, keep them warm and take them to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected

RoSPA has produced ice safety advice for the operators and managers of sites which include water. See www.rospa.com/leisuresafety/information/ice_safety.htm

To reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls on icy pavements:

Wear sturdy shoes with good grip

If there is a “sunny side of the street”, walk on it

Allow extra time for your journey

Move about with care, stay focused on what is underfoot and remember that some places will remain icy for longer than others

RoSPA's winter driving advice is here: www.rospa.com/news/releases/2009/pr752_18_12_09_road.htm

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