Emergency Management

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72 Hour Kit – Emergency Supplies

In Canada, the responsibility for emergency management is shared among the three different levels of government, first response agencies, non-governmental organizations and volunteers.  During an emergency, all these groups must work together to provide a coordinated response in order to protect life and property.

However, because emergencies often occur at the local level, emergency preparedness actually begins at home.  One of the most important things you can do to assist your community is to be able to take care of yourself and your family for at least the first three days following a disaster.  That way, first responders and municipal officials can deal with the direct impacts of the emergency.Read this article about the importance of home emergency preparedness in Ontario.Also, download a copy of the Home Emergency Preparedness Guide to learn about the various risks in our area, and what you can do at home to be prepared in case disaster strikes.

Home Emergency Preparedness

Please continue reading to learn how you and your family can prepare at home for emergencies…

During An Emergency

  • Follow the advice of local emergency officials

  • Listen to your radio (CHOK 1070 AM) for news and instructions. 

  • Do not use your telephone unless absolutely necessary (emergency personnel need access to telephone lines) and do not call 9-1-1 to obtain information.

An Emergency Supplies Kit

If you are advised to leave your home or stay inside for a period of time, having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable.  Assemble a “72 Hour Emergency Supplies Kit” and store the items in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or plastic storage bin. Store the container in an easily accessible location such as a closet shelf on the main floor.  Your emergency supplies kit should have enough food, water and basic needs that will keep your household self-sufficient for at least three days. 

The kit should include the following items:

  • “special needs” items for any member of your household (i.e. baby formula, diapers, prescription medication etc.);

  • first-aid supplies (bandages, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes, assorted safety pins, cleansing agent or soap, cold pack, eyewash solution, cotton swabs, disposable gloves and face shield, gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, lip balm etc.);

  • a change of clothing for each household member (footwear as well);

  • candles and matches or lighter;

  • a sleeping bag or bedroll for each household member (in case you have to evacuate);

  • flashlight and batteries;

  • battery-powered radio or television, and extra batteries;

  • duct tape;

  • non-perishable food (this should be replaced every year);

  • bottled water;

  • whistle (in case you need to attract someone’s attention);

  • playing cards or games;

  • toilet paper and other personal care supplies;

  • basic tools (hammer, pliers/wrench, screwdriver set, assortment of fasteners, work gloves);

  • extra car and house keys;

  • extra cash (change too – for vending machines etc.) and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licences).  Copies of essential documents should also be kept in a safe location outside your home – in a safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good idea.

Your 72 Hour Emergency Supplies Kit could prove to be very useful if electricity is lost or weather keeps you from leaving your home.  You should bring your kit if you are advised to evacuate, so include any other essential items you think you might need.


There could be situations where emergency officials advise residents within a specific area to take shelter if there has been a transportation or industrial incident involving the release of dangerous chemicals.  If advised, you should remain indoors, close all outside air intakes and protect yourself there because a closed build contains several hours of breathable air whereas the air outside may be unsafe.  This is often referred to as “Sheltering-In-Place”.

The following steps will help maximize your protection: 

  • Close and lock all windows and exterior doors (locking doors and windows may allow them to seal more tightly).

  • Turn off heating and air-conditioning systems that draw air from the outside (keep the outside air out, and the inside air in!).

  • Using duct or other wide tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room (using plastic sheeting may create an even better seal).

  • Close fireplace dampers, if applicable.

  • Get your emergency supplies kit, make sure the radio is working and keep it on to obtain information and instructions.

  • Go to an interior room that’s above ground level (if possible, one without windows).  In a chemical release, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.

  • Listen closely to instructions given over the radio (CHOK 1070 AM).

  • You may also call the CAER Industry Update Line (1-855-4SARNIA or 1-855-472-7642) to hear current information about non-routine industry activity such as unusual noises, alarms, training activities, high flaring and industrial incidents.
  • Continue to monitor your radio until you are told all is safe, or you are advised to evacuate. Local officials might call for the evacuation of specific areas in your community that are at greatest risk.  Responders will advise when it is safe to go outside.

  • Don’t forget to bring pets indoors too!


If local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a good reason to make this request and you should heed their advice immediately.  Listen to your radio and follow the instructions of local emergency or municipal officials, keeping these simple tips in mind.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.

  • Take your emergency supplies kit.

  • Lock your home.

    Take a cellular telephone if you have one.

  • Collect family members or go to the place designated in your family plan as a meeting place.

  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities.  Don’t use shortcuts – certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.

  • Stay away from downed power lines.

  • If you go to an evacuation centre, sign up at the registration desk so you can be contacted or reunited with your family and loved ones.

  • Contact your out-of-area emergency contact (identified in your personal emergency plan) to let that person know what has happened, that you are okay, and how to contact you. Alert your contact to any separated family members.

  • Listen to your radio for the most accurate information about your area.  Staying tuned to local radio and television stations, and following their instructions, is your safest choice.

 If you’re sure you have time:

  • Call or e-mail your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.

  • If instructed to so do, shut off water and electricity before leaving.  Leave natural gas service ‘on’ unless local officials advise you otherwise.  You may need gas for heating and cooking and you will need to contact your utility company to reconnect appliances or restore gas service in your home once it’s been turned off.  In a disaster situation, it could take weeks for a professional to respond.

School or Child Care Centres

During a “Shelter-In-Place” or “Evacuation” advisory, schools or day-cares within the affected area will initiate their own internal response procedures.  If the hazard involves a chemical vapour release, it is imperative that you ensure your family’s safety by remaining indoors.  If your child is in school, it is best they remain there.  Schools have procedures to deal with emergency situations such as these.  Listen to your radio for information – school telephone lines may be overwhelmed with calls.

Be sure that your child’s school has up-to-date contact information about how to reach you or a responsible caregiver to arrange for pickup if school buses are not running.  Find out ahead of time what type of authorization the school requires to release a child to a designate, if you cannot collect your child yourself.

The above information has been adapted from guidelines prepared by Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Canada and is intended to provide you with assistance in formulating a home emergency response plan.

Severe Summer Weather

Severe Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms develop in a warm, humid, unstable air, most often between May and September. Storms usually only last an hour, but a line of thunderstorms can last for several hours.

Severe thunderstorms are often accompanied by hail, lightning, high winds, heavy rain, and potentially, tornadoes. That’s why it is recommended people take the same precautions during a severe thunderstorm as they should during a Tornado Warning.

Be Prepared:  Be Aware of WATCHES and WARNINGS

Environment Canada will issue severe thunderstorm Watches and Warnings when appropriate and local radio stations will usually broadcast such advisories as soon as possible.  There are significant differences between Watches and Warnings:

  • A severe thunderstorm WATCH is issued if conditions exist for thunderstorms to develop. A Watch is usually issued early in the day, so monitor weather conditions and listen for weather reports.
  • A severe thunderstorm WARNING is issued for areas in the path of a storm that has intensified to the severe stage. Severe thunderstorm Warnings imply the risk of tornadoes, so residents should be prepared to take shelter if threatening conditions are present.


When weather conditions look threatening, turn on your radio and listen for weather reports.  If residents in your area are advised to take cover, do so immediately!


The air is charged with electricity during a thunderstorm and this is seen as lightning. Bolts of lightning hit the ground at about 40,000 kilometres per second – so fast that the lightning appears to be a single main bolt with a few forks.  The main bolt is actually a series of lightning strikes, all taking the same path, but so fast and bright that the eye cannot distinguish between them.

To estimate how far away the lightning is, count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap.  Each second is about 300 metres. If you count fewer than 30 seconds, look around for shelter; if you count fewer than five  seconds, take shelter immediately – lightning is near and you do not want to be the tallest object in the area. It is recommended that you wait 30 minutes after the last lightning strike before venturing outside again.

Lightning Safety

  • If indoors, stay there, but away from windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, sinks, bathtubs, appliances, metal pipes, telephones and other materials which conduct electricity.
  • Unplug radios and televisions (use your battery-powered radio to listen to weather reports).
  • If outdoors, take shelter in a building or a vehicle.  If this is not possible, get into a depressed area such as a ditch or a valley, but never under a tree.
  • If swimming or out in a boat, get back to shore immediately.
  • If caught in the open, do not lie flat – crouch down, lower your head and cover your ears with your hands.
  • If you are in a vehicle, pull away from trees and hydro poles which might fall on you.  Do not touch anything metal inside the vehicle (it’s the metal body surrounding you that protects you from lightning, not the rubber tires).

“When the sky roars, get indoors!”

Environment Canada recommends, “If you can hear thunder, seek your best shelter immediately and remain in that shelter for a full 30 minutes after the last thunder to ensure the storm has moved off.  Or more simply put, “When the sky roars, get indoors” – and remain there for a full 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.”

Environment Canada – Weather Office

Local Weather Conditions Phone: 519 464-5121

For current weather forecasts visit The Weather Network or Environment Canada


EF1 Tornado, Grand Bend – July 27, 2014

An intense thunderstorm that came off Lake Huron between Kettle Point and Grand Bend spawned an EF1 tornado that struck just south of the community of Grand Bend in Lambton Shores.  Several thousand trees were downed by the short-lived, but powerful winds, causing damage to a number of residences and one significant injury (a camper at the Pinery).  Had the tornado gone through the middle of the Pinery or Grand Bend, the destruction and consequences would have been much greater.

The affected area of Lambton Shores was deemed a “disaster area” by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, making the municipality eligible for up to $720,000 to help defray costs incurred by the municipality for the massive clean-up and repair of vital infrastructure.

F2 Tornado, Central Lambton County – July 23, 2011

Environment Canada confirmed that damage to barns, trees, hydro poles and towers along a path starting just south-east of Wyoming was caused by a strong F2 tornado, under the former Fujita Scale (at the time, winds were estimated to have been up to 230 kph).  Most tornados in Ontario are either EF0 or EF1.  Keep reading to learn more about the Enhanced Fujita Scale that is now used by Environment Canada to rate the intensity of wind damage.

The July 23 tornado caused the collapse of five steel Hydro One transmission towers (shown below) and snapped or downed over 20 wooden hydro poles (below left) resulting in a massive power outage throughout the County.  Some areas had power restored within an hour or so, but many parts of central and eastern Lambton were without electricity until Sunday afternoon and late evening, respectively.  Fortunately no one was injured and no homes were destroyed during the storm.

In looking back, it is interesting to note that reportedly, no one saw the actual tornado because of a heavy “rain curtain” wrapped around the funnel, obscuring the tornado itself.  Many people reported a “wall of white,” but not a funnel – a description eerily similar to eyewitness accounts of the 1983 Reece’s Corners tornado (see the account near bottom of this page).  Rain curtains make tornadoes particularly dangerous because people may not realize that a tornado is headed in their direction.  The best thing to do if there is a severe storm, or the wind is growing in strength, or you can’t see because of rain or darkness is take cover!

“As much devastation and hardship this event has caused some families, we’re really very fortunate there were no injuries, or families left homeless because of the storm.  Hydro One did an amazing job getting power restored so quickly after such significant damage to their infrastructure, bringing in workers and resources from across the Province, as well as getting local assistance from Bluewater Power.”  – Lambton County Warden Steve Arnold  Tornado2

Many tornadoes travel in a south-west to north-east direction, so many people look to the south-west for the approach of severe weather.

An unusual characteristic of this sudden tornado is that it travelled along an 11 km path from the north-west to the south-east.  The Grand Bend Tornado also came off Lake Huron from the north-west, proving that tornadoes are unpredictable.


A tornado is a column of rotating wind, travelling across the land at up to 100 km/h.  Wind speeds within a tornado can range from 64 km/h to over 500 km/h.

Most tornadoes in Ontario occur from May to September in late afternoon and are most frequent during moderate summer temperatures, accompanied by high humidity.  On average, there are about 13 tornadoes in the Province each year.

Warning signs that could precede a tornado:

  • Thunderstorms that grow in intensity, with heavy rain and severe thunder and lightning.
  • Large hail (hail larger than a nickel is evidence of a very strong storm).
  • An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by rotating green or yellow clouds.
  • Unusual darkness and an eerie calm at the end of a severe storm.
  • A rumbling sound like a freight train, or a whistling sound like a jet.

If you observe any of the above warning signs, take cover immediately!

Tornado Facts:

  • Most tornadoes are less than a few hundred metres across, but during the Hallam Nebraska Tornado Outbreak of 2004, one tornado reached a width of 4000 metres – the widest tornado ever recorded.
  • Most tornadoes form near the south-west end of a storm, just when conditions seem to be improving.  In fact, the sky may already be brightening in the distance.
  • It is not windy near most tornadoes and the air may be unusually calm just a few kilometres away.  However, it is dangerous to be outside near a tornado because pieces of debris drawn into the storm can fall from the sky without warning.
  • Some people hear a roar, but some tornadoes produce no sound.  If the sound is irregular, it is likely the result of damage occurring nearby, but if it is a steady, softer sound that originates in the sky or toward the main storm cloud, it is more likely caused by large hailstones hitting the ground or colliding in mid-air.
  • Do not assume that you will see or hear a tornado coming. Tornadoes do not always have visible funnels (the condensation cloud that comes from a cloud base) and in Ontario, heavy rain often hides tornadoes.

Be Prepared:  Be Aware of Watches and Warnings

Environment Canada will issue tornado Watches or Warnings when appropriate and local radio stations will usually broadcast such advisories as soon as possible. There are significant differences between Watches and Warnings:

A Tornado WATCH is issued if conditions are favourable for tornadoes to develop later in the day.  This is a significant weather development, so monitor weather conditions and listen for updated weather reports.  Be prepared to take action if severe weather or a tornado develops.

A Tornado WARNING is issued if one has been sighted, or if radar detects a tornado-like disturbance.  Residents in the area covered by a Warning will be advised to take shelter immediately!

When weather conditions look threatening, turn on your battery-powered radio and listen for weather reports.  If residents in your area are advised to take cover, do so immediately! What to do when a tornado threatens:

  • Take shelter immediately, preferably in the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Stay away from windows, outer doors and exterior walls. Flying glass and debris blown into a building are extremely dangerous.
  • Do not spend valuable time opening windows to prevent a building from “exploding.”  Such action is unlikely to help because buildings are damaged by wind and by debris blown by the wind – not by a sudden drop in air pressure.
  • Take cover immediately when advised or when conditions dictate.

Finding shelter:

  • In a house, go to the basement and take shelter under a stairway or a sturdy work table.
  • In a house with no basement, go to a hallway, a closet or a bathroom near the centre of the building. Lying in a bathtub with a mattress on top may provide additional protection.
  • In a large building such as a grocery store or shopping mall, go to an interior hallway or a washroom on the lowest level or get under a sturdy piece of furniture.  Avoid large rooms and stay away from windows.
  • In high-rise buildings, go to the lowest level, a small interior room or a stairwell.  Stay out of elevators and away from windows.
  • If you are driving, camping, hiking, biking or outdoors and there are no good shelters nearby, your situation is dire.  Get in a low-lying area, a ditch or a culvert.  If there are no low areas, try to get deep into a thick cluster of trees and get down as low as possible.  Protect your head and watch out for flying debris – small objects can become lethal weapons when driven by tornadic winds.
  • If you are driving and see a tornado in the distance, try to find shelter. If the tornado is close, get out of your vehicle and take cover in a low-lying area.  Do not take shelter under an overpass. If a tornado seems to be standing still, it is either travelling away from you, or heading right toward you!

The Enhanced Fujita Scale

On April 1, 2013, Environment Canada’s Weather Service introduced a new scale to measure the intensity of wind damage. This scale, called the Enhanced Fujita Scale or EF-Scale, is a more modern and improved version of the original Fujita Scale (F-Scale).

As with the original scale, the EF-Scale is a 6-point scale that goes from zero (weakest) to five (strongest). Its adoption unifies the approach to wind damage assessment in Canada and the United States, which adopted the enhanced scale in 2007.

EF0 – light winds of 90 to 130 km/hr; some damage to chimneys, TV antennas, roof shingles, trees, signs, and windows.  F0 tornadoes account for about 28 percent of all tornadoes.

EF1 – moderate winds of 135 to 175 km/hr; automobiles overturned, carports destroyed, and trees uprooted. F1 tornadoes account for about 39 percent of all tornadoes.

EF2 – considerable winds of 180 to 220 km/hr; roofs blown off homes. Sheds and outbuildings demolished, and mobile homes overturned. F2 tornadoes account for about 24 percent of all tornadoes.

EF3 – severe winds of 225 to 265 km/hr; exterior walls and roofs blown off homes, metal buildings collapsed or severely damaged, and forests and farmland flattened. F3 tornadoes account for about six percent of all tornadoes.

EF4 – devastating winds of 270 to 310 km/hr; few walls, if any, left standing in well-built homes. Large steel and concrete objects carried or thrown great distances. F4 tornadoes account for about two percent of all tornadoes.

EF5 – incredible winds of over 315 km/hr; homes levelled or carried great distances. F5 tornadoes can cause tremendous damage to large structures such as schools and motels and can tear off exterior walls and roofs. Tornadoes of this magnitude account for less than one percent of all tornadoes. There has been one documented F5 in Canada, in Elie Manitoba on June 22, 2007.  F5 tornadoes are possible in Canada every summer.

Historical Tornadoes in Lambton County

In Lambton, tornadoes have caused tremendous damage in the past.  In May 1953, a tornado struck downtown Sarnia killing seven people and injuring 40.  Damage to buildings and structures was extensive, being estimated at 59.7 million dollars (in year 2000 dollars).  Approximately 500 residents had to be evacuated.


Residents wander Christina Street following the tornado that struck downtown Sarnia in 1953


Front Street, Sarnia (looking south) following the 1953 tornado

Sarnia Tornado

“On May 21, 1953, heavy rain and golfball-sized hail preceded the tornado that devastated the downtown.  The storm continued across Lambton and Middlesex counties, and passed just north of London.  In all, the storm was responsible for seven deaths, five of them in Ontario.  The tornado caused $5 million worth of damage in Sarnia. Sarnia’s most damaged downtown landmarks included the Vendome Hotel, the Imperial Bank, Taylor’s furniture store and the Imperial Theatre.  The theatre sustained so much damage that it was later demolished.  Debris cluttered Christina Street and trees were toppled along the half mile-wide swath of destruction the tornado left.  Pat McLean, whose family lived at the corner of Brock and Cromwell streets, said trees were falling all over the place.  “It was like somebody was playing pickup sticks and everything dropped,” she said.  Geoff Lane of Sarnia was a new Observer reporter at the time and remembers watching a grey spiral cloud rotate above Port Huron.  He thought it was a dust devil phenomenon like he had seen in East Africa as he watched it cross the river behind a freighter and disappear from his view at about 5:40 p.m.  But when he left the office that was closer to George Street than the current building, he saw the devastation he had narrowly escaped.  Observer staff worked by flashlight at manual typewriters in the powerless city to get the news out.  As they worked, there were sporadic cases of looting after the storm.  Troops from Camp Ipperwash and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were quickly called in to help local provincial police patrol the streets.  Police Chief Sydney Pratt declared the city under martial law, giving police the power to deal with looters, and acting mayor Clayton Saylor read the riot act from the steps of city hall in an effort to get people to disperse from the streets.  Residents and local industries aided in the cleanup, which began a mere hour after the storm ended.”

Copyright The Observer (Sarnia) 2003, All Rights Reserved.

Reece’s Corners Tornado

On May 2, 1983, tornadoes brought destruction where they touched down in several locations across the County – from Walpole Island to the former Town of Forest.  Reece’s Corners in the former Township of Plympton was hardest hit, with fourteen homes and businesses seriously damaged, and thirteen people injured.  Eighteen families were temporarily made homeless.

Fortunately, tornadoes are a relatively rare occurrence.  Every summer though, thunderstorms pass through our area which have the capacity to spawn tornadoes and damaging winds.

  Winter Storms

 Highway #402 Snow Squall Emergency
During the December 13-16, 2010 snow squall emergency, possibly up to 1,500 people were stranded on Lambton County roadways and Highway #402. It is known that almost 700 travellers had to be housed in local community emergency shelters, and it is estimated that an equal number were also given shelter in private residences. It was observed that many people rescued from Highway #402 did not have basic items like boots and a winter coat with them.
winter 2010

At Home
Really heavy snows are not very frequent in this part of Ontario, but it isn’t uncommon to be “snowed in” for a day or two in parts of Lambton County.  Therefore, you might want to consider stocking up on some emergency supplies such as ready-to-eat foods, battery-powered flashlights and radios and extra batteries.

  • When freezing rain, heavy snow, blowing snow or a blizzard is forecast, leave your radio on to stay informed of the situation and hear updated forecasts.
  • If a blizzard or heavy blowing snow is forecast and if you are on a farm with livestock, bring the animals into the barn. Make sure they have plenty of water and food. You may also want to string a lifeline between your house and any outbuildings to which you may have to go during the storm.
  • When a winter storm hits, stay indoors. If you must go to the outbuildings, dress for the weather. Outer clothing should be tightly woven and water-repellent.  The jacket should have a hood. Wear mittens – they are warmer than gloves – and a hat, as most body heat is lost through the head.
  • In wide open areas, visibility can be virtually zero during heavy blowing snow or a blizzard. You may easily lose your way. If a blizzard strikes, do not try to walk to another building unless there is a rope to guide you or something you can follow.
  • Ice from freezing rain accumulates on branches, power lines and buildings. If you must go outside when a significant accumulation of ice has already occurred, pay attention to branches or wires that could break, due to the weight of the ice, and fall on you. Ice sheets could also do the same. Above all, do not touch power lines: a hanging power line could be charged (live) and you would run the risk of electrocution.  Remember also that ice, branches or power lines can continue to break and fall for several hours after the end of the precipitation, so be vigilant. Finally, if the power has been off for several hours, check the food in the refrigerator and freezer in case it has spoiled.

In Your Car
As a rule, it is a good idea to keep your gas tank almost full during the winter and to have extra windshield washer fluid and antifreeze on hand. You may want to prepare two small emergency kits – one to put in the trunk of your car and the other in the cab of the car.

The trunk kit should include:

  • Shovel, sand, or salt, kitty litter or other traction aids
  • Tow chain and booster cables
  • Fire extinguisher, warning light or flares; and extra clothing, including mittens, hats and boots

The kit in the cab of the car should include:

  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • First-aid kit
  • Matches, candles (in a deep can to warm hands or heat a drink) and emergency food pack. If you do not already have a cellular telephone and if the cellular network works in your area, you may want to consider having one with you in your car for emergencies.

Remember that freezing rain, even just a little, can make roads extremely slippery. Driving is not recommended when freezing rain is forecast, or for several hours after freezing rain ends, so that road maintenance crews have enough time to treat icy roads.

If you must travel during a winter storm, do so during the day and let someone know your route and arrival time.  If your car gets stuck in a blizzard or snowstorm, remain calm and stay in your car. Allow fresh air into your car by opening the window slightly on the sheltered side away from the wind. You can run the car engine about 10 minutes every half-hour if your exhaust system is in good condition and not blocked by snow. Check the exhaust pipe periodically to make sure it is not blocked with snow. (Remember: you can’t smell potentially fatal carbon monoxide, but if you smell exhaust fumes, that is a sign of trouble.)

Finally, to keep your hands and feet warm, exercise them periodically. In general, it is a good idea to keep moving to avoid falling asleep. If you do try to shovel the snow from around your car, avoid over-exerting yourself. Keep watch for other traffic and searchers.

Ice Safety
Stay away from riverbanks, rivers and creeks in the spring – don’t challenge cold water!

Understand that ice cover is often unpredictable:

  • Ice formed on moving water such as rivers and creeks varies in thickness and strength
  • In spring, ice is not safe – even thick ice is not necessarily safe. During the spring melt, lines of impurities in the ice melt very quickly, creating weak spots
  • Ice rarely freezes or thaws at an equal rate

Know The Ice
The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength:

  • Clear blue ice is strongest
  • White opaque (difficult to see through) or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice.  Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice
  • Grey ice is unsafe. The greyness indicates the presence of water.

Ice thickness:

  • 15 cm minimum for walking or skating alone
  • 20 cm minimum for skating parties or games
  • 25 cm minimum for snowmobiles

Remember… ice is always unpredictable and thickness will vary from one location to another.

  • Fast flowing water in streams, creeks and rivers create thin and weak ice
    Ice near shore is weaker – the buckling action of the lake or stream over the winter breaks and refreezes ice continually along the shore
  • Straight, smooth flowing stretches are safer than river bends.  River mouths are dangerous because the current weakens the ice and creates unsafe pockets
    A potential danger spot on lakes is an open area of water completely surrounded by ice.  Winds will force exposed water beneath the ice and “rot” it from below
  • Water level fluctuations can create thin ice. Ice can be ‘hanging’ with no support beneath when water levels drop
  • A warm spell or thaw can degrade ice VERY quickly; therefore, ice that was safe one day may be dangerous the next
  • During the spring, under-cut riverbanks thaw and may collapse when someone walks on them. Snow and ice overhangs also form in these areas and may present additional dangers
  • It is especially dangerous to fall through the ice of a fast flowing river, because the current can sweep you under the ice – even small ditches and culverts have cold fast flowing water in the spring.

If you fall through the ice:

  • Try not to panic.  Call for help loudly and clearly
  • Resist the urge to climb back out where you fell in.  The ice is weak in this area
  • Use the air trapped in your clothing to get into a floating position on your stomach and face the shore
  • Slowly reach forward onto the ice – do not push down on it
  • Kick your legs to slowly push your torso onto the ice
  • Crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your arms and legs spread out as far as possible to evenly distribute your body weight
  • DO NOT stand up. Look for shore and make sure you’re going in the right direction
  • Get medical help immediately
  • If you can’t climb onto the ice, float in the water and continue calling for help

If someone else falls through the ice:

Rescuing a person who has fallen through the ice can be dangerous.  The safest way to perform a rescue is from shore. Instead of attempting to pull a victim out of the water, help them rescue themselves.  ONLY AN ADULT should attempt to physically rescue a victim who has fallen through the ice, because an adult is stronger.  Even a small child can be very heavy when wearing soaked winter clothing.

  1. Call 9-1-1 for help. Consider whether you can quickly get help from trained professionals (police, fire fighters or ambulance) or bystanders
  2. See if you can reach the person using a long pole or branch from shore – if so, lie down and extend the pole to the person
  3. If you must go onto ice, wear a personal floatation device (PFD) and carry a long pole or branch to test the ice in front of you
  4. Bring something to reach or throw to the person (e.g. pole, weighted rope, line or tree branch) – lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole
  5. Remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device (pole, rope, line or branch) to the person.  Have the person kick while you pull them out

Following the rescue, SEEK MEDICAL HELP!  If the victim shows stiffness, slurred speech or is unconscious, they could be hypothermic – a loss of body core heat which can be fatal.


The above safety tips are excerpted from the Quinte Conservation website – Quinte is one of Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities and is located in eastern Ontario, encompassing 6,200 square kilometres including the drainage basins of the Moira, Napanee and Salmon Rivers and all of Prince Edward County.  For more information please visit: www.quinteconservation.ca.

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