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Ice Safety

Practice ice safety this winter. It is hard to tell the strength or thickness of ice by its appearance. Changing weather conditions can also affect ice from day to day. So remember, if in doubt, don't go out!

Safety Tips

If you choose to go out on the ice, keep in mind the following safety tips:

1. Consider Conditions

Keep a close eye on the weather. Changing weather can cover waters and leave you disoriented on a surface with no landmarks.

Do not travel over ice in early and late winter when conditions are more likely to be dangerous. Avoid slushy, thawed, recently refrozen ice, or ice near moving water. Avoid going on the ice at night. Reduced visibility increases the risk of passing over weak or open ice.

Always check the ice for thickness and stability before going out, particularly when crossing an icebreaker track. Consult the Canadian Red Cross guidelines for more information.

2. Plan Ahead

Don’t travel on ice alone. Leave a trip plan with someone that includes where you’re going, for how long, and when you will be back. If you are unable to leave a trip plan with someone, leave a note on your car windshield.

Don’t drink alcohol and travel on ice. Alcohol impairs judgment and reduces your ability to stay warm in cold conditions.

3. Avoid Icebreakers, Other Vessels, and Their Tracks

If you see an icebreaker or other vessel, leave the ice immediately. It’s dangerous. Avoid the area even after icebreaking operations are complete.

Icebreaking creates open water tracks in the ice. An icebreaker can cause cracks to extend far away from the vessel. Its track and wake can alter ice floes from afar. Even reformed ice will remain unstable for hours or days after the icebreaker has left the area.

Be aware that sharp, jagged pieces of ice may stick up from the surface after icebreaking. Use care and caution around the track even if ice is thick and stable to avoid injuries and damage to vehicles.

4. Be Prepared

Carry a personal safety kit that includes:

  • a lighter
  • waterproof matches
  • magnesium fire starter
  • pocket knife
  • whistle
  • cellphone in a waterproof pouch.

Carry a fully-charged GPS, a compass and map as a backup, and know how to use them all.

Loosen buckles, bindings, and undo belts on any equipment so they can be removed.


Should you need emergency help, dial 911. If you witness a marine emergency, it can be reported 24/7 by calling the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue hotline in your area.

You may also contact a Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centre on VHF channel 16. All numbers are open 24 hours a day.

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