The cold water survival experiments by University of Manitoba professor and researcher Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht – dubbed Professor Popsicle – may seem a bit quirky, but cold water shock is no laughing matter.

The ice on lakes and ponds in many parts of the country is not yet thick enough to be considered safe for activities such as skating, playing hockey or snowmobiling. Ice thickness can fluctuate from year to year, depending on weather, currents and even salt content.

This past week, at least two young people fell into icy cold water. One teen in Halifax, Nova Scotia was successfully rescued after his friends called out for help, but a young boy sadly died after falling into Lake Ontario.

These incidents are all the more tragic because they can be prevented. The Canadian Red Cross has an easy rule to follow when it comes to measuring ice thickness. It’s called the 15-20-25 rule. When the ice reaches 15 cm thick, it’s safe for an individual to walk or skate on it. For a game of hockey or another group activity on the neighbourhood pond or lake, the ice should measure 20 cm thick. Motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles or ATVs should not go on ice unless it’s 25 cm in depth.

The Red Cross also has good advice on what to do should you fall through the ice. The key is not to panic, call for help if others are around and try to crawl back to safety. Find more helpful tips at www.redcross.ca/icesafety.