Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - It can happen in an instant. Someone is walking on the ice on the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, or the Blackfoot rivers, and without warning they fall through the ice into the frigid water.

After the recent cold snap and the rapid warming, KGVO News reached out to Missoula Rural Fire Department Captain Cooper Berry about how to respond to such an incident.

MRFD with Advice on What to do if Someone Falls Through Ice on the River

“It was real cold and we had good layers of ice on everything, and now it's warming up and people are getting outside and enjoying the outdoors and the ice is an ‘attractive hazard’,” began Captain Berry. “We're just recommending to parents with children that you know your kids are going to be really curious about the ice. Just be really careful and keep a close eye on your kids. Any adults who are going onto the ice to recreate should bring appropriate safety equipment to include a life vest, ice awls and that sort of thing.”

Berry said if the worst happens and someone falls through the ice, not to panic, but to act quickly and contact 9-1-1 immediately.

Captain Berry said Not to Panic but to Call 9-1-1 Immediately

“If somebody does go through the ice or if your animal goes through the ice, please don't try to go after that person or that animal,” he said. “It's going to be just as dangerous for you and we're going to have more than one person in trouble. Call 9-1-1 immediately. If you can reach somebody with a rope or a tree branch or ladder or even some jumper cables, or something that people often have handy. Those are things you can do from a safe distance.”

Berry provided life saving advice if you’re alone and you fall through the ice.

Be Precise about Where the Incident Occurred when you call 9-1-1

“If you fall through the ice, it may be unreasonable to ask, but try to stay calm,” he said. “Try not to panic. The cold water is shocking, so you're going to want to face the same direction that you came from. Reach your arms over the ice and kick your feet to try to pop yourself up onto the ice. If you can get out of the ice, stay lying down, and by doing so you're spreading surface area on that ice and just roll your way towards a safe spot on land.”

In case of an ice emergency, contact 9-1-1 and be as precise as possible as to where the accident occurred. Be very clear about which side of the river the accident occurred upon and how long they have been in the water so that rescue crews can get to the victim as quickly as possible.

Get more details by contacting Missoula Rural Fire at 406-549-6172.

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