Exposure causes loss of body heat. This is called hypothermia. Hypothermia can kill. Defense against hypothermia is to avoid exposure to cold. Do this by staying dry and avoiding the wind. Put on rain gear before you get wet. If you fall into cold water, do NOT discard clothing; it will help trap heat. Avoid moving as much as possible. A life jacket helps in two ways; it reduces the need to move, and it helps insulate against heat loss. When you wear a life jacket, draw knees up into a H.E.L.P. (Heat Escape Lessening Position). If several persons are in the water, huddle together so you can conserve heat and stay alive.
Care involves getting the victim out of the wet clothes. Warm the victim gradually by wrapping him or her in blankets or putting on dry clothing and moving into a warm environment. If the victim is alert, give warm liquids to drink that do not contain alcohol or caffeine. DO NOT warm the victim too quickly, by immersing in warm water, for instance, as this can cause dangerous heart rhythms. Transport the victim to a medical facility.
ICE CLAWS ARE SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE ICE SAFETY EQUIPMENT
The Swedish claws are the best design although any style is better than being in the water with nothing. Swedish Ice Claws
NEVER LEAVE SHORE WITHOUT THEM. Over half of ‘through the ice’ deaths would probably be avoided if everyone had ice claws.
They are also called ice picks, safety claws, ice awls, bear claws, ice gripers, etc. Most local stores that sell ice fishing gear have them. There are several different styles.
The Swedish claws are the best design although any style is better than being in the water with nothing.
Home Made Claws:
They are easy to make. The simplest design is the 'broom handle' design.
I recommend 20D common nails. They are plenty strong enough (roughly twice as strong as some of the commercial claw designs designs which work fine). I suggest common nails and not box nails. The heads can easily be cut off with a hacksaw or bolt cutter. You do not need galvanized or stainless nails. Some people recommend using cement nails for the spikes. They are hard and strong but can be hard to cut the heads off. A hack saw with a high quality blade will cut them if they are not too hard. My current batch of 3-1/2" cement nails has a few that are too hard to saw with bimetal blade. An abrasive cut-off tool will cut them easily, just don't set your wood shop on fire. An 11/64" drill should be a tight enough fit to keep cement nails in place without glue (although glue never hurts). It is best if nails are cut as long as you can drill. The point does not need to be any sharper or more tapered than the unmodified nail.
There are other simple home made designs on the Internet.
Some homemade claws are made with cut off screwdrivers. If you go that route, the spike on the end should only be an 1" to 1.5" long to make them more effective and to reduce the impalement risk when carrying them. If the spikes are much longer you get less purchase on the ice than you would with a shorter spike length.
Some ice fishing stores sell 'Ice armband Grippers' with carbide studs. They are worn over your forearms. They should work pretty well and they are always in place and ready to use (other than maybe having to spin them around to get the studs pointed toward the ice).
I recently met a fisherman who, over the years, has fallen through about four times, usually while riding a four wheeler. He has gotten back on the ice more than once using a jack knife with a short blade he carries in a breast pocket. He admits that real ice picks would work better but he was very happy to have the jack knife when he needed it.
Anything that is sharp may help. Sailors have used their track spikes. Some people just carry a couple of fairly big nails. Getting out without claws is doable but technique is important (click here for info on clawless self rescue).
You should have several spare pairs of claws so you always have them with you and you have some for friends. Make a bunch and give them away. Sooner or later you will save someone’s life, most likely your own.
The Swedish claws are designed to be worn close around your neck so they are where you can find them quickly when you are in the water. It is recommended that you keep the neck strap short to reduce the risk that they could come over your head when you fall in. The Swedes have a large skating population and they analyze accident details. They use this to develop well designed safety equipment. The ease of deployment of the Swedish claws also means they can be bumped out of their holder once in a while. For people on foot or skates that seems to me to be a minor liability for what is a very good design. For sailors managing a mainsheet, this could be a problem so another design may be better.
There are two commercial designs available in local fishing stores and on the web. One type has retractable claw covers that are designed to be worn with the lanyard through your coat sleeves and the claws hanging out the ends of the sleeves a little bit. That makes them easily available in the water. They sink in water. If you carry them in a pocket the lanyard should be tied off to you. Some of this type can be found with a spiral plastic lanyard.
Breast pockets are probably a reasonable place to carry them. Places that are either poor or useless include pockets that are harder to get to, packs, tackle boxes, gear buckets, on your fishing sled or snowmobile, vehicle glove compartments, or at home.
A good procedure for using ice claws is:
COLD WATER BOOT CAMP 8 Volunteers...45 F. Water...Minutes to Survive
IT's A FLIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!!!
Cold water is a significant contributing factor to drowning during boating and other water related recreational activities. But only recently are boating educators starting to better understand the real reason.
MYTH - You don't need a lifejacket "if you are close to shore", or "because you can swim" and that "you can put a lifejacket on in the water" if you need it.
FACT - In 90% of drownings a life jacket was not warm. Research has also demonstrated that in cold water, under 59 degrees, the risk of drowning increases by 500%, and many of those drownings will occur within 6 feet of safety.
REALITY - Cold Water Boot Camp USA takes eight hardy volunteers from across America and puts them into cold water to learn what really happens. The instructor is Dr, Gordon Giesbrecht, Professor of Thermophysiology at the University of Manitoba, Canada and an expert in the study of the effects of cold water on the human body.
1-10-1 Principle Video Click Here
Under Dr.. Giesbrecht's (AKA Professor Popsicle") watchful eye, the volunteers personally experience the three effects of Cold Water Immersion - cold water shock, cold incapacitation and even hypothermia. Along the way Dr. Giesbrecht provides valuable information about how to better survive an accidental fall into cold water and the Boot Capers face the indisputable fact - that the difference between becoming a Statistic and a Survivor...is wearing a Lifejacket.
This Video program provided by the National Water Safety Congress
Posters used in the Information Kiosk at the Green Space in the Amusement Park
For more information:
See Outdoor Action Guide website - click on OUTDOOR ACTION GUIDE
Check out US Search & Rescue Task Force - click on SEARCH & RESCUE