Ice safety starts with awareness

By JennWatt

Published Feb. 13 2018

Staying safe on the ice begins with being informed about the conditions of local lakes and waterways says ice safety instructor Robert Evis.
For sledders the best practice is to check in with the local snowmobile association to find out what lakes and trails are safe and to stick to the trails.
“The local snow machine clubs aren’t going to be putting it’s safe to travel signs … if the lakes aren’t safe yet. If people stuck to the established trails we probably wouldn’t have a lot of issues” said Evis who is a director at Wilderness Safety Systems based in Muskoka.
“The clubs are really responsible they go out and test the trails and maintain them and mark them” he said.
Lack of knowledge about local conditions can lead to dangerous situations. In a seven-day period 12 people broke through the ice of Haliburton County lakes with the latest instance requiring an early morning rescue by local emergency services.
Evis is a wilderness rescue instructor as well as a paramedic who recently led instruction in ice safety at the Hardwater Festival in West Guilford.

Aside from knowing your environment and checking in with the appropriate authorities before going on a lake he also recommended additional safety measures.
“Even people on snow machines or going out and crossing a lake should be wearing something that floats like a floater coat or a floater suit” he said.
“Most of the Ski-doo wear you buy these days or snow machine wear or ice fishing suit it’s a floater suit. If you plan on travelling on the ice making sure people know where you’re going and when you’re supposed to be back. Bring an emergency communication device with you.”
He also recommended ice picks that can be worn over the shoulders as well as a throw rope which is a bag of floating rope that can be used to pull someone out.
For those intending on taking a longer trip out on the ice Evis said you can pack a dry bag with a sleeping bag in it something to start a fire a change of clothes and food.
Evis’s company offers training on ice rescue tailored to the needs specific organizations.

As climate change progresses he expects that there will be an increased need for ice safety awareness.
“With changing climatic conditions the rises and drops in temperature we’re getting we get really unstable ice conditions in a lot of places especially where there’s any kind of current or spots where you’re fairly near shore or anywhere the lake or whatever body of water that you’re travelling on might be shallow underneath the ice. They have a tendency to create really really weak ice structures. That’s what we’re seeing” he said.
He suggested that municipalities could begin advising the general public on areas which lakes are safe to use.