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As the big freeze continues across much of the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is reminding people - particularly dog walkers - to be aware of the dangers of frozen rivers and lakes.

Whenever the country is in the grip of freezing temperatures, RoSPA sadly hears about people losing their lives after falling through the ice and there are always many more near-misses. In 2009, there were at least four such deaths.

A RoSPA analysis of 20 frozen water deaths from recent years found that the victim had been attempting to rescue another person or a dog in more than half of the incidents. When a dog was involved, it was common for the pet to scramble out to safety when the owner did not. Other incidents involved children who had been playing on the ice.

A RoSPA spokesman said: “RoSPA tends to issue frozen water advice each winter, but today’s warning comes far earlier than in previous seasons. We hope people will heed this advice both this week and during the coming months.

“At RoSPA, we are committed to the philosophy that life should be as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible, and we encourage people - particularly children - to get out and about to enjoy the wintry weather.

“Ice-related drownings, however, are easily preventable. We advise people to take care around the edges of lakes and rivers because snow can obscure them, and we recommend that dogs are kept on a lead so they do not run out on to the ice. Also, avoid throwing sticks or balls on to the ice for dogs to retrieve.

“Although frozen water can look tempting, there’s simply no way of knowing whether the ice will hold your weight and it’s often too late by the time you find out that it won’t.

“We encourage parents to talk to their children about the hazards of frozen water and what to do if they see someone fall through the ice.”

If someone falls through the ice:

  • Call the emergency services
  • Do not attempt to go out on to the ice yourself
  • Tell the person to stay still to maintain heat and energy
  • Try finding something which will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole or branch
  • Throw the object out and, once ensuring you are stable on the bank either by lying down or having someone hold on to you, pull them in
  • If you cannot find something to reach with, try finding an object that will float and push that out to them
  • Ensure that you keep off the ice at all times during the rescue, continue to reassure the casualty and keep them talking until help arrives
  • Once the person has been rescued, keep them warm and take them to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected.

In addition to its frozen water advice, RoSPA has some tips for sledging - see

The safety charity’s winter driving advice can be found at  

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