Insurance Bureau of Canada holds dramatic ice rescue demo in Red Deer and supports fire department's water rescue efforts

    RED DEER, AB, March 4 /CNW/ - John Blaicher (a.k.a. "The Iceman") makes a
habit of plunging himself into ice-cold water in the middle of winter. One of
Canada's leading experts in water and ice safety, Blaicher was at Bower Ponds
today to help Canada's home, car and business insurers deliver an important
message: Ice is never 100% safe. He even brought along his own 300-gallon tub,
filled with ice and freezing water.
    Every winter, 25 to 30 Canadians die in ice-related events, and countless
others fall through the ice and have close brushes with death. Blaicher is on
a 10-city tour this winter as a spokesperson for the insurance industry's Be
Smart. Be Safe. injury prevention program, teaching Canadians how to save
themselves or others from icy water and prevent needless tragedies. The Be
Smart. Be Safe. program is sponsored by Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) on
behalf of Canada's home, car and business insurers.
    "Many factors influence the formation of ice, and each of the factors has
a direct impact upon its strength, thickness and rate of erosion," Blaicher
told a shivering audience while immersed in his icy tub. "Ice in cities and
towns is usually weaker and more dangerous than ice in rural areas. This is
due to a number of factors, including salt from nearby roads, and more water
movement because of ditches and sewage treatment plants."
    Blaicher warned people to stay off the ice in and around Red Deer unless
the ice is man-made on solid ground, or is maintained by knowledgeable
personnel and checked regularly. He also stressed that untrained rescuers
should never venture onto the ice to try to rescue someone in difficulty.
"This too often results in a double tragedy," he said. "If you come across
someone in trouble, you should call 911 immediately and advise the operator
that it is an ice-related emergency."
    Jim Rivait, Vice-President, Prairies, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
for Insurance Bureau of Canada presented Red Deer Emergency Services with a
Mustang Ice Commander Suit to aid in water and ice rescues.
    "We are grateful for your participation today, and we're pleased to
support the important contribution that Red Deer Emergency Services makes
every day in keeping our communities safer," said Rivait.
    For outdoor enthusiasts in Red Deer and other parts of the province,
Canada's home, car and business insurers provided the following ice safety

    1. Use designated ice surfaces

    For activities such as skating, many communities have designated ponds or
    outdoor ice surfaces that are maintained by knowledgeable personnel.
    Designated ice should be regularly tested to ensure that it is thick
    enough and strong enough for recreational use.

    2. Measure ice thickness in several locations

    Local conditions such as currents, temperature fluctuations, high winds
    and water depths can affect ice thickness. White ice has air or snow
    within it and should be considered suspect for recreational use. Consult
    knowledgeable local individuals about ice thickness and use the following
    rules as a guide:

        -  3" (7cm) or less - STAY OFF
        -  4" (10cm) - ice fishing, walking, cross-country skiing
        -  5" (12cm) - one snowmobile or ATV
        -  8"-12" (20-30cm) - one car or small pickup
        -  12"-15" (30-38cm) - one medium truck (pickup or van)

    3. High-risk ice areas to avoid

    Avoid ice in the following areas: rivers; narrows where one pond or lake
    flows into another; farm dugouts; low-head dams; areas where schools of
    fish and waterfowl congregate; stormwater inlets and outlets to ponds;
    areas near thermal generating plants (heating, sewage and thermal-
    electric); and reservoirs.

    4. Avoid travelling on ice at night or when it is snowing

    Reduced visibility increases your chances of walking or driving into an
    area of open water or onto weak ice. This is a frequent cause of drowning
    for ATV and snowmobile users.

    5. Wear a thermal protection buoyant suit or a lifejacket when on ice

    While ice-fishing or operating a snowmobile, ATV or dirt bike on the ice,
    you should wear a buoyant suit. If you don't have one, wear a lifejacket
    or PFD over your snowmobile suit or layered winter clothing to increase
    your chances of survival if you go through the ice.

    6. Take safety equipment with you onto the ice

    Bring along ice picks, an ice staff, rope, and a small personal safety
    kit that contains a pocketknife, compass, whistle, fire-starter kit and

    7. Avoid drinking alcohol on or near ice

    Alcohol impairs your judgment, coordination and reaction time, putting
    you at greater risk of a mishap. Alcohol also speeds up the development
    of hypothermia.

    8. Always supervise children playing on or near ice

    Children should always be with a buddy and under adult supervision.

    Remember that ice is constantly changing in response to weather and water
conditions. That's why ice is never 100% safe, even when you've tested its
thickness. To guarantee your safety, the best advice is to stay off the ice.

    Be Smart. Be Safe. is a national injury prevention campaign developed by
Canada's home, car and business insurers to reinforce the message that most
injuries are preventable. The community outreach program visits cities and
towns across the country to show Canadians what they can do to prevent
injuries on the road, at home and at play.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Ellen Woodger, (416) 483-2358; James
Geuzebroek, (416) 362-2031 ext. 4364.

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