Sledding Safety

Sleds

So have you had enough snow yet? We’re forecasted to get another winter storm this Sunday, are you planning to snuggle up inside, or get outside with your family? Sledding has always been a huge favourite of kids and adults alike. Like many outdoor activities, there are some precautions that kids should take to ensure a fun and safe day on the hill!

 

Choosing the hill:

  • Select a hill that is not too steep and has a long flat area at the bottom for you to glide to a stop.
  • Avoid hillsides that end near a street or parking lot, near a pond, fences, trees, or other hazards.
  • Make sure the hill is free of obstacles such as jumps, bumps, rocks, poles, or trees before you begin sledding.
  • Choose hills that are snowy rather than icy. An icy slope makes for a hard landing if you fall off your sled.
  • Sled during the daytime, when visibility is better. If you go sledding at night, make sure the hillside is well lit and all potential hazards are visible.

 

Dress for winter:

  • Wear appropriate winter clothing — hats, gloves or mittens, snow pants, winter jacket, snow boots — that is waterproof and warm, and change into something dry if your clothes get wet. Bring extra mittens, as the hands tend to get the coldest and wettest, and mittens tend to be the first thing to get so wet that they become useless.
  • Wear a helmet designed for winter sports. If you don’t have a ski or winter sports helmet, at least wear the helmet you use for biking or skateboarding.

 

The Right Sled:

Try to choose a sled that can be steered and has brakes. Avoid those that can’t be steered, such as tubes, saucers, toboggans, or crazy carpets and never use a sled substitute like a cardboard box. Good sleds are relatively cheap to buy and are well worth the extra money.

 

Follow These Simple Safety Rules

You are dressed warmly, helmet has been adjusted, sled in hand, and you found that perfect hill. You’re ready to go. Here are some more safety tips to ensure a safe experience:

  • Assign an adult to be in charge in case of injury.
  • Always sit face-forward on your sled. Never sled down a hill backwards or while standing, and don’t go down the hill face-first, as this greatly increases the risk of a head injury.
  • Young kids (5 and under) should sled with an adult, and kids younger than 12 should be actively watched at all times.
  • Go down the hill one at a time and with only one person per sled (except for adults with young children).
  • Never build an artificial jump or obstacle on a sledding hill.
  • Keep your arms and legs within the sled at all times, and if you fall off the sled, move out of the way. If you find yourself on a sled that won’t stop, roll off it and get away from it.
  • Walk up the side of the hill and leave the middle open for other sledders.
  • Never ride a sled that is being pulled by a moving vehicle.

We want to hear from you: Where is your favourite sledding hill?

Ice Safety

One of the most popular winter activities is ice skating. Here in Halifax there are lots of options for skating: indoor arenas, outdoor rinks, the Oval, and ponds and lakes. Staying safe when skating on frozen bodies of water means being prepared for the cold, knowing the environment, and knowing what to do if an emergency arises. Cold-related injuries like frostbite and hypothermia are usually preventable, especially if the proper precautions are taken.

ice-hockey

A few things to do to be prepared for a cold day on the ice:
1) Know how to stay warm:

Dress in warm layers. Your base layer should be a sweat-wicking material like wool or synthetic materials like polyester or microfiber-based fabrics. This base layer will keep your skin dry, which helps to keep you warm. A mid layer should provide additional insulation and warmth, like fleece, down, or synthetic filler. Wool works well as a mid-layer as well. An outer layer should be water and/or windproof to keep you warm and dry.

Another thing to keep in mind when dressing for the cold is to keep your major heat-loss areas covered. This includes your head, neck, armpits and groin, so don’t forget your hat and scarf!

2) Check the thickness of the ice:

Ice needs to be thick enough to hold your own weight, or the weight of a group of people. The thickness of the ice will vary throughout the winter, and will depend on the body of water (depth, size, movement of water, any chemicals in the water like salt), and the changing air temperature. If you see gray ice, stay away—this indicates that there is water in or just below the ice surface.

Luckily there’s an easy way to check the thickness of the ice in our local lakes and ponds: the city of Halifax regularly checks the thickness and posts online at: https://apps.halifax.ca/icethickness which can be referred to before any outing onto the ice. The ice should be at least 15 cm for walking or skating alone, 20 cm for a group skate or game of hockey, and 25 cm or more if you’re planning to use a snowmobile on the ice.

3) Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of emergency:

a. In case of hypothermia, call for help, and get the person to warmth and get them out of wet clothing as soon as possible.
b. If you fall through the ice, kick your legs to push your torso onto the ice, avoiding pushing down on the ice as much as possible. Crawl on your stomach with your weight distributed as much as possible, and move quickly towards safety.
c. If someone else falls through the ice, move away from the broken ice and towards shore. Call for help, and try to reach the person with a branch, hockey stick, or length of rope. Have them kick their feet while you pull them out.

For more information, check out the red cross website at: http://www.redcross.ca/what-we-do/swimming-and-water-safety/swimming,-boating-and-water-safety-tips/ice-safety or consider taking an emergency first aid course.

Spending time outdoors skating and playing ice sports is a great way to keep yourself and your family active this winter. Take the proper precautions and have a great time this winter!