In Manitoba, 20-25 people a year die in a drowning situation.
Acting CO of the Life Saving Society of Manitoba Kevin Tordiffe says, drowning is a big issue in Manitoba and it's rare to go one month without a drowning in it.
"People would be surprised to know that generally more people are drowning in Manitoba than die due to drinking and driving on the highways."
Now that winter has arrived hikers, skaters, snowmobilers, and ice fishers are going to be wanting to start heading out onto the frozen waters.
Tordiffe says people should only head out onto the ice once it has been checked. Consistent cold weather is needed for ice to freeze; However, that hasn't been the case so far this year with temperatures fluctuating between the double digits.
Checking the ice can be done by drilling a hole and seeing how thick the ice is. Moving water, variable temperatures, and debris can cause ice thickness to vary, and may not be able to support a person's weight.
If the ice does give way below you, Tordiffe says depending on the air and water temperatures you are at risk of developing hypothermia; however, it does take time for it to set in.
"The immediate risk is you begin to panic in a very automatic sense; it's not necessarily something you can control. Your body begins to gasp for air and when it's gasping if you happen to be below the surface of the water that can spell a drowning incident happening right away."
When participating in ice activities, Tordiffe says to come prepared. When hiking or skating, use trails that have been officially deemed safe, and when snowmobiling or ice fishing, wear a floater jacket. As well, whatever activity it is, tell people where you're going and don't go alone.
If you do see someone fall through the ice, your first instinct should be call 911, says Tordiffe.
"If you feel you have the skill set to affect a rescue, what you should do is make sure you're staying very low and distributing your weight on the ice. Be very selective of how you approach; understand that you're going onto the same ice that failed for them."
People need to put a priority on their safety. Tordiffe recommends using a reaching assist like a rope, long pole or stick, or even your jacket. All of these are ways to reach out to the person in need while reducing your risk of being pulled into the water as well.
If you do find yourself in the water while alone, he says you should follow the one-ten-one principle.
"You've got one minute to get your breathing under control. . . the next thing you have is you have about ten minutes of time where you will have enough control and power in your muscles before they become fatigued from the cold to be able to get yourself out."
During those ten minutes go back the way you came, anything forward is unknown ice, but the ice before had been holding up your weight, Tordiffe says.
Get your arms out onto the ice the best you can and begin to kick your legs into a horizontal position. Finally, roll and pull yourself onto the ice, continue to stay low until you move further from the hole, or make it to the shore.
Drownings are preventable, Tordiffe adds. With some forethought, planning, and awareness of the risks around ice, everyone can enjoy their ice-related adventure.