Parents and guardians of young people are being advised to especially supervise their children during this period of exceptionally cold weather.

“Stay off ALL ice,” warns John Leech, chief executive of Irish Water Safety.

IWS ice warning

Children will be tempted to play on ice where water has frozen on canals, ponds, lakes and flooded areas.

“Playing on frozen edges can be perilous as ice can be quite thick in one area and much thinner within that same area,” he warns.

Previous hard spells of weather have ended in tragedy where young children have fallen through the ice and  drowned. The CEO is advising caution exterme caution.

“Ice-related drownings can occur when the rescuer gets into difficulty attempting to rescue another person or a family pet. Whereas a pet will often manage to scramble to safety unaided, regrettably the owner may not.

“Know the dangers of ice,” he adds.

Ice facts

Many factors affect ice thickness (type of water; location; time of year; shade from the sun), and other environmental factors including:

  • water depth and size of water body
  • currents, tides and other moving water
  • chemicals, including salt
  • fluctuations in water levels
  • logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun
  • changing air temperature
  • shock waves from vehicles travelling on the ice
  • ice colour – indicator of its strength – clear blue is the strongest; white opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice; grey is unsafe (indicates presence of water)
  • ice should be 15cm for walking or skating alone; 20cm for skating and 25cm for snowmobiles
  • NEVER go onto ice alone and especially at night
  • rescuing another person from ice can be dangerous. The safest way to perform a rescue is from shore. CALL 112 for help and ask for the COAST GUARD, giving precise location, number of people in difficulty and any conspicuous building or landmark nearby
  • check if you can reach the person using a ringbuoy and rope, long pole, items of clothing, brach of a tree etc, FROM shore
  • lie down and extend the object to the person
  • instruct the person to keep still to maintain their heat and energy
  • IF you go onto the ice, wear a lifejacket and carry and long object to test the ice in front of you. Bring something to reach or throw to the person
  • when near the break, lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole
  • remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device to the person
  • ask the person to kick while you pull them out
  • move the person to a safe position or shore or where you are sure the ice is thick
  • ALL casualties should be taken to hospital even if they appear unaffected as they could be suffering from hypothermia


  • if you get into trouble on ice and you’re alone. Call for help
  • resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in; the ice will be weak
  • use the air trapped in your clothing to get into a floating position on your stomach
  • reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down; kick your legs to push your torso on the ice
  • when you are back on the ice, crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your arms and legs spread out as far a possible to evenly distribute your weight.
  • look for shore and make sure you are going in the right direction