Mark Strehl Blog: What to do if someone falls in ice

Warmer temps on the way - that's the promise anyway (after this Winter, I won't blame you for being skeptical!) And this crosses my desk today - It's a warning from the Coast Guard to stay off the thinning ice. (Common sense.) Warning seems fair enough, there are a lot of knuckle heads out there. But being a former Boy Scout (yes it was pretty awesome - hiking, canoeing and hanging out in the woods ) we were always trained to be prepared.

So here are a few notes to tuck away should you encounter someone who has fallen thru the ice: Most folks these days have cell phone. Call 911 first and stay on the line. But what you do before fire and rescue arrives may make the difference between life and death.

First of all, if you are the one that fell through the ice, you want to remove anything that could weigh you down - boots and heavy coats. If you can throw any article on top of the ice, it will make you easier to spot, and may be used to help pull you out. Items in your pocket - such as keys - can help you dig into the surface of the ice and may help you hang on, or even pull you out. I've heard of ice fishermen that have even keep a couple of large nails in their pockets.

If you are the rescuer, after dialing for help, call out for help. There may be nearby people that can help you. This is going to be a team effort.

In the manuals there is always a picture of someone coming to the rescue with a ladder. That would be nice. But most of the time, I rarely see ladders laying around semi-frozen lakes and ponds. Ropes are always great. If you are near a beach, there may be a "life saving ring" or a buoy. You may be able to tie a string of coats and clothing together to make your own rescue line that can pull the victim out of the water. Boards and branches can work - anything that you can extend to the victim to help them hold on or pull them out.

Judgement is of upmost importance.

With a team of people and no other options available, a "human chain" can be assembled reaching out to the victim. Laying flat on the ice hands holding on the the next person's feet. It is important that the person closest to shore is anchored or has some way of preventing the line of rescuers from falling in creating more victims. Again, common sense and good judgement are the key - Caution and prevention are even better!