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Ice safety tips for cold, winter months

Tuesday - 1/14/2014, 5:27pm  ET

'Stay off the ice'

Mark Brady, Prince George's County Fire and EMS

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WASHINGTON -- The death of a 10-year-old Maryland boy is prompting officials to warn people against the dangers of ice in lakes and other bodies of water during the winter months.

"Stay off the ice. It's plain and simple," says Mark Brady from Prince George's County Fire Department and EMS.

"There is no consistent climate [in the region] that will make the ice thick enough to support the weight of anybody to be walking around in the ice."

And the same goes for attempted pet rescues. If your dog runs onto ice, it is better to call authorities than attempt to rescue it yourself, Brady says.

Check out more tips below, courtesy of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department:

What to do if someone falls through ice

  • Call 911

  • Reach, throw, go. If someone falls through the ice and you are unable to reach the person from shore, throw them something they can grab. If that does not work, go for help before you also become a victim. Get medical assistance immediately.

  • If you fall in, do not panic. Turn toward the direction you came from. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, working forward by kicking your feet. Once out, remain lying on the ice (do not stand) and roll away from the hole. Crawl back using your previous tracks or route, keeping your weight distributed until you return to solid ice on land.

Ice dangers

  • Never go onto the ice alone. Always keep your pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt to rescue your pet.

  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. As ice ages, the bond between the crystals decays, making it weaker even if melting has not occurred.

  • Ice formed over flowing water (rivers or lakes containing a large number of springs) is weaker.

  • Ice seldom freezes or thaws at a uniform rate. It can be 1 foot thick in one spot, and be only 1 inch thick 10 feet away.

  • Beware of ice covered with snow. Snow can insulate ice and keep it strong, but can also insulate it to keep it from freezing. Snow can hide cracks, weak or open ice.

Cold water dangers

  • Cold water is dangerous below 70 degrees.

  • Cold water robs the body of heat up to 30 times faster than air.

  • Safety experts estimate that half of all drowning victims die from the fatal effects of hypothermia, not from water in the lungs.

Watch a video of firefighters rescuing a dog trapped in ice:

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