Falling through ice to the cold water below is a truly life-threatening situation and requires quick action. It only takes a minute or two before the victim becomes too weak to escape the water on his own. Once back on the ice, the victim is still in danger of falling through again or of succumbing to hypothermia. Saving a victim from icy water is dangerous, but following a few simple tips can help.
First, call 911 if possible. Getting help on the way is important before putting yourself in danger. To rescue the victim, follow these steps: Preach, reach, throw, row, go.
Photo provided by Josh Shanley
Preach to the victim. Encourage the victim to keep trying to stay afloat and not to give up. You're letting him know you're there and you're trying to help.
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William Mitchell/United States Coast Guard
Reach out to the victim without leaving shore. If you can reach the victim without getting on the ice, that's the best. Use ladders, poles or anything handy to reach the victim. In some areas, ice rescue tools are available for the public. Don't go any closer to the ice than you have to go.
Throw something to the victim and pull her out. A throw rope is made for this purpose, but you can also use jumper cables or garden hoses -- whatever is handy and strong enough to pull the victim from the water. If possible, have the victim tie the rope around her before hypothermia makes it difficult for her to grasp the rope.
Row out to the victim. In the case of ice rescue, push a flotation device out to the victim. If the ice breaks again, you'll be floating on the cold water underneath instead of swimming in it.
If you must approach the hole in the ice, don't walk upright. Lay down and roll or slide up to the edge. Your body weight will be spread over a larger surface area, making the ice less likely to break more. Combine going with reaching; use whatever you can to reach the victim without getting too close to the hole in the ice.