What to Do If You Fall Through the Ice

Bob like a seal? It's less silly than it sounds; it could save your life.

Feb. 10, 2009 — -- Bill Stanton started to worry when the thin ice he stood on began cracking, but when he fell through, into 34-degree water, panic took over.

The panic only lasted for a moment before Stanton remembered his training and the best way to get out of the deadly waters: bob like a seal.

After a minute in the water, Stanton flopped himself out of the water and ran toward a waiting ambulance. The ambulance was waiting on site, like the safety divers in the water with Stanton and the other rescuers on hand, because Stanton's fall was no accident.

Stanton, "GMA's" safety and security expert, was testing what thin ice experts like Green Bay Fire Department EMS division captain Corey Bereza say is the best way to escape lethally cold water.

"What you're going to do is try and concentrate and make yourself bob up and down and literally be like a seal when they come out of the water, you bounce down and then pull yourself up and bob up at the same time. That way you're able to get your chest and your belly high enough that you can fall over on top of the ice," Bereza told "Good Morning America."

Stanton, who was only wearing street clothes, said that even though the experiment was highly controlled, it was a harrowing experience.

"When I was doing it, I didn't hear anything," Stanton said. "My heart was beating in my ears. Every step I took I was expecting to fall to the bottom of the pond."

When he hit the water, Stanton said his worry felt justified.

"Once I fell through it was like a complete shock to my system. The best way to describe it is go outside when it's like in the teens without gloves and you know how painful it is? How it's like needles? Well that's how it was all over my body. Uncontrollably the air went out of my body. Momentarily I was panicked. And then my mind went to what the captain told me, acclimate yourself. Get your thoughts together and do it to it, and get out of that ice," Stanton said.

But when someone falls through the ice, it is often deadly for more than just that person.

How to Save a Life

According to Bereza, around 60 percent of fatalities related to falling through the ice happen to the would-be rescuers.

In order to rescue one safely, experts teach the following tips.

First, call someone for help. Let professionals with the proper equipment handle the rescue.

If professional help is not available, stick to the mantra of Reach, Throw, Row and Go.

Reach: Try to reach for the person, but only if you can do so safely and without getting in a position where you may fall in as well.

Throw: Try to throw something that they can grab onto -- a rope or a flotation device that the person in the water can get on top of so you can pull them out.

Row: If there is a canoe or a small boat on shore, you can use that to safely get out to offer help.

Go: As a last resort, you can get in the water yourself and try to pull the person out.

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