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London Fire Brigade urges caution around icy waters as temperatures plunge

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The dangers of frozen waterways

As London experiences freezing temperatures this week, the London Fire Brigade has issued a stern warning to the public about the hazards of frozen lakes and waterways.

The appeal comes in the wake of tragic incidents, such as the December 2022 event where four children in the West Midlands lost their lives after falling through ice.

Expert advice on ice safety

Assistant Commissioner for Prevention and Protection, Charlie Pugsley, emphasised the deceptive nature of ice: “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.” Pugsley further explained the dangers of falling into icy water, highlighting the risks of hypothermia and drowning, even for strong swimmers.

Risks to pets and their owners

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reports that half of the drownings related to ice involve attempts to rescue dogs.

In a notable incident in January 2023, London firefighters rescued a teenager and a dog from an icy pond in Leytonstone.

The importance of keeping dogs on leads near frozen waters was stressed, along with advice against throwing objects onto the ice.

Dr Sam Gaines, an RSPCA Pet Welfare Specialist, advised: “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.” Gaines also cautioned against owners attempting to rescue their pets, urging them to call for professional help instead.

Safety guidelines for icy conditions

The London Fire Brigade provided essential guidelines for individuals who find themselves or others in perilous situations on ice:

  • What to Do if You Fall Through Ice: Remain calm, call for help, spread your arms, keep still if you cannot climb out, and seek medical attention immediately after getting out.
  • What to Do if Someone Else Falls Through Ice: Stay on the bank, call for help, keep the victim calm, and wait for emergency services without attempting a personal rescue.

IFSJ Comment

The London Fire Brigade’s warning about the dangers of icy waters is a timely reminder of the perils associated with freezing temperatures.

The incidents cited, including the unfortunate deaths in the West Midlands and the Leytonstone rescue, underline the unpredictable and treacherous nature of frozen water bodies.

The advice and guidelines provided are crucial for public safety and should be heeded to prevent further tragedies.

Such preventive measures and awareness campaigns are vital, especially during the winter months when such incidents are more prevalent.

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