While many Airdrie residents are keen to get out of the house and enjoy the city’s frozen waterways, the Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) is reminding residents the importance of understanding ice safety to avoid unwanted injuries and accidents.
Deputy fire chief Ken Hubbard said he wanted to emphasize that every natural ice surface in Airdrie is unpredictable.
“They experience rapid freezing and thawing, because of the switch between warm and freezing conditions,” he said. “They usually have water running underneath, which can actually weaken the ice surfaces. Any time there is any ice that surrounds obstacles like trees, rocks or under bridges, it becomes weak and brittle and can break.”
Hubbard said the reason he brings up that point is because ponds that fluctuate in water level and temperature are sometimes close to local off-leash parks.
“We want to remind people not to chase their pets onto ice surfaces,” he said. “Make sure that you are thinking about staying away from the ice and take note of any thawing or points where ice is weaker.”
According to Hubbard, there have already been two calls to AFD this winter that involved breaking ice. Fortunately, he said fire crews did not have to pull people out of the water, as they were able to self-rescue.
Reported incidents the AFD are aware of took place in the community of Bayside, where Hubbard said ponds are very narrow and there has been a lot of activity.
“There have been events where people have fallen through the ice and have been rescued by people passing by,” he said. “We do know that Calgary has had a number of incidents where they have had to rescue people from different ice surfaces.”
Hubbard said one of the most important things to note is how dangerous ice surfaces can be at this time of year due to frequent temperature fluctuation. He said anyone who chooses to venture onto a frozen waterway should do so with abundant caution.
In the event you witness someone who has broken through thin ice, Hubbard said to call 911 and be prepared to assist if you can.
“Try to reach them with a stick or a scarf or something like that,” he said. “If you can’t reach them or assist them, get help.”
Outdoor rinks, according to Hubbard, are the safest option to enjoy outdoor skating during the winter months. The City of Airdrie maintains six boarded outdoor rinks, four snowbank rinks and three natural ice surfaces.
“We just strongly recommend that you check the surfaces every time before use,” he said. “Don’t go alone and make sure an adult is around.”
Hubbard said the Red Cross' five main points of ice safety, as published on redcross.ca, include staying away from soft, opaque ice, or ice with visible flowing water just underneath the surface.
Other tips include wearing a helmet to prevent injuries when skating and being prepared to get help in the event the ice breaks. The last point states that if you are alone and fall through thin ice, to stretch out and make yourself flat, to try to relax and reach forward onto ice.