Fall-through-ice code is 1-10-1

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Even in the dead of winter, crossing the ice on the Portage Canal should be made with caution because of the currents running under the ice.

HANCOCK — Surviving a fall through ice can require planning and quick action.

Keweenaw residents are accustomed to dealing with ice and its dangers. However, cold water requires quick action if things go wrong.

According to Coast Guard data from Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, a thermo-physiologist from the University of Manitoba, the 1-10-1 rule is a good guideline.

The rule estimates that a person immersed in cold water has 1 minute before gasping reflex breathing begins as a response to cold shock. The 10 represents the 10-minute window of functional movement of arms and legs. The final 1 represents an hour of time before most lose consciousness.

“That first 10 minutes is critical, otherwise you’re not helping yourself get out,” said Jason Swain, chief at Coast Guard Station Portage.

If traveling alone and unable to get out, Swain recommends keeping hands on the ice and making loud noises to attract help.

“Rather than sinking into the water it would help you stay on top. Your arms may freeze to the top,” Swain said. “Believe it or not, there’s a decent chance of survival if you were to go unconscious if you were recovered within the first hour. They call it the golden hour.”

There are occasionally cases where individuals are revived after being recovered within that hour, although it is not common and depends on the individual, Swain explained.

“Due to the coldness of the water, in the wintertime your body goes in more of a preservation mode,” he said.

To prevent dangerous situations, Swain recommends not traveling alone on the ice and informing someone of the end destination and planned return time.

If someone falls through the ice, rescuers must be cautious to not become victims themselves.

“Don’t walk right up to them,” Swain said.

Instead, use a rope or long object to reach them.

“If you’re going to walk out onto the ice and approach somebody…get down on all fours or even do a crawl on your belly. You distribute the weight more on the ice,” Swain said.

If in a group, rescuers should be at least 10 or 15 feet apart to further distribute weight.

Traveling prepared with warm clothes, a whistle and maybe even a life jacket can be lifesavers, Swain said.

Fortunately, ice fall-throughs have been rare this year, according to reports from local police.