With freezing temperature conditions set to last for several days, Hungry Mother State Park, the Town of Marion and Smyth County Emergency Management are urging people to stay safe by staying off frozen water.
The warning is issued as part of the Town's winter safety message.
There are grave dangers of walking on frozen lakes and waterways when temperatures stay around freezing," said Nate Clark, Park Manager of Hungry Mother State Park. "Please take extra care and keep away from the frozen water during the cold snap." "Walking on ice is not permitted at the park, and will be enforced. There is no way to safely judge the thickness and load bearing of the ice, and emergency management teams do not have adequate equipment or training to conduct an ice rescue," Clark added.
"For water cold enough to freeze, a human can only survive about fifteen minutes," said Ken Heath, Town of Marion's Director of Community and Economic Development. "Under the best circumstances, rescue from the middle of the lake would take longer than that, by the time someone calls 911, crews are dispatched, and response time. Hypothermia isn't something to play with, and these arctic surface temps and subzero wind chills expedite severe injury and death, not only for the person falling through the ice, but also for rescuers if things go badly."
A number of lakes and reservoirs may freeze, and whilst they may look enticing to walk over or worse, skate, the ice is a very dangerous place. Hungry Mother State Park is home to an 108-acre lake, and while its beauty is enticing, there is too much risk in attempting to walk across it.
Most reservoirs have a shelving slope before they drop off into deeper water, and it's extremely dangerous if people venture on to ice not knowing how deep the water is below them and particularly how thick or, in most cases, how thin the ice is they are standing on.
Safety advice - what to do if you see someone fall through the ice:
Never venture onto frozen ponds and lakes, no matter how safe it looks.
If you see someone fall through the ice:
• Shout for assistance and send for the emergency services - call 911 immediately.
• Stay off the ice.
• Shout to the casualty to keep still.
• Try and reach them from the bank using a rope, pole, a tree branch, clothing tied together or anything else that extends your reach.
• When reaching for the bank, lie down to avoid being pulled onto the ice.
• If you cannot reach them, slide something that floats like a rescue buoy across the ice for them to hold on to stay afloat.
• If the casualty is out of reach, wait for the emergency services while calming and reassuring them.
After the casualty has been rescued from the ice:
• Make sure the ambulance is on its way.
• Lay them flat, check their breathing and pulse and begin resuscitation if necessary.
• Prevent them from getting colder by putting them in a sleeping bag or covering them including their head, with blankets or spare clothing.
• Get them under shelter out of the cold.
• Until the casualty is in a warm place do not undress them.
• Do not rub their skin, apply hot water or give an alcoholic drink.
• Keep them wrapped up so that they warm up gradually.
If you fall through the ice:
• Keep calm and call for help.
• If no help is available spread your arms across the surface of the ice.
• If the ice is strong enough kick your legs and slide onto the ice.
• Lie flat and pull yourself to the bank
• If the ice is very thin, break it in front of you and make your way to the shore.
• If you cannot climb out, wait for help keeping as still as possible.
• Press your arms by your side and keep your legs together.
• Once you are safe, go to hospital immediately for a checkup.