Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Winter Water Safety

Stay safe in winter – the dangers of frozen waters 

In winter children and pets are particularly at risk when tempted to play on the ice formed on open water, and adults can find themselves at risk in attempting to save them. 

Areas with frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can be beautiful places to visit during the winter months but all too often many people risk their lives by venturing onto frozen water. Here are some useful tips to help you know what to do in an emergency:

  • Teach children not to go onto the ice under any circumstances
  • Don’t go onto ice or into the water to rescue a dog, move to somewhere that the dog will be able to climb out and call them towards you
  • Keep dogs on their leads when near ice and don’t throw sticks or toys onto the ice
  • Time your walks to make the most of the daylight; if you need to walk in the evening only use well-lit areas or take a route not alongside water
  • When walking alongside water keep back from the edge


What to do if you fall through the ice: 

  1. Keep calm and shout for ‘help’ 
  2. Spread your arms across the surface of the ice in front of you 
  3. If the ice is strong enough, kick your legs to slide onto the ice 
  4. Lie flat and pull yourself towards the bank 
  5. If the ice breaks, work your way to the bank-breaking the ice in front of you
  6. If you cannot climb out, wait for help and keep as still as possible. Press your arms by your side and keep your legs together. Keep your head clear of the water 
  7. Once you are safe, go to hospital immediately for a check up 


What to do if you see someone fall through the ice: 

  1. Shout for assistance and phone 999
  2. Do not walk or climb onto the ice to attempt a rescue 
  3. Shout to the casualty to ‘keep still’ and offer reassurance to keep them calm 
  4. Try and reach them from the bank using a rope, pole, tree branch, clothing tied together or anything else which can extend your reach 
  5. When reaching from the bank, lie down to avoid being pulled onto the ice 
  6. If you cannot reach them, slide something which floats, such as a plastic bottle or football, across the ice for them to hold onto to stay afloat whilst help is on the way 
  7. If the casualty is too far away, do not attempt to rescue them. Wait for the emergency services while calming and reassuring the casualty 


What to do after the casualty has been rescued from the ice: 

  1. Make sure the ambulance is on its way 
  2. Lay the casualty flat, check for normal breathing and begin resuscitation if necessary 
  3. Prevent them from getting colder by covering them with warm clothing, blankets etc. 
  4. Get them out of the cold under cover or create some shelter around them 
  5. Until the casualty is in a warm place, do not undress them 
  6. Do not rub their skin, do not apply hot water bottles and do not give an alcoholic drink 
  7. Keep them wrapped up so they warm up gradually 

Always follow the Water Safety Code. Whenever you are around water:

STOP and THINK - Look for the dangers, always read the signs

STAY TOGETHER - Never swim alone - always go with friends or family

In an emergency:

CALL 999 - Shout for help and phone 999

FLOAT - If you fall in, float or swim on your back. Throw something that floats to anyone who has fallen in

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