Don’t risk it on the ice

London Fire Brigade issue warning about dangers of frozen lakes and waterways

A frozen pond
Photo by Aiden Craver on Unsplash

With temperatures dropping below freezing this week, London Fire Brigade is appealing for the public to stay safe around frozen lakes and waterways.

It might be tempting to walk or play on frozen water, but the ice can easily break. In December 2022, four children died after falling into an icy lake in the West Midlands.

Assistant Commissioner for Prevention and Protection, Charlie Pugsley, said: “Even if ice appears thick from the bank, it becomes thinner very quickly. Keep away from the edge of the open water, especially slippery banks.

“If you fall in, the temperature of icy water is cold enough to take your breath away, which can easily lead to panic and drowning. The coldness can make your arms and legs numb which means you can’t control them and can’t swim. It can lead to hypothermia – a serious reduction in your body temperature – which can cause heart failure. This happens even to the strongest swimmers.”

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 50% of ice related drownings involve the attempted rescue of a dog.

In January last year (2023), London firefighters rescued a teenager and a dog from an icy pond on Whipps Cross Road in Leytonstone. They were trapped quite a way from the shore in a pond that had frozen over, and firefighters used water rescue equipment to bring them to safety.

It’s important to keep your dog on a lead near ice and frozen waters and do not throw sticks or balls onto the ice.

RSPCA Pet Welfare Specialist Dr Sam Gaines said: “Our advice at the RSPCA is to keep dogs away from frozen ponds, lakes or rivers which can pose a danger and make sure their paws do not get impacted with snow.

“It is best to walk dogs away from frozen water or keep them on the lead if it’s unavoidable. If your dog ventures onto the ice, never follow them onto it, instead call them to come back to you right away, but if they get stuck call fire and rescue services for help.

“Owners should never try to risk rescuing their pet themselves as they could get themselves into a dangerous situation.”

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