TODAY   |  January 07, 2014

Survival tips: What to do if you fall through ice

Teaming up with certified rescuers, NBC national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen took the plunge – literally – through thin ice to show how to escape alive.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> let's begin this half hour with a warning. with these subzero temperatures, there's danger lurking on lakes and ponds, we're talking about thin ice . today national investigative correspondent jeff rossen has more on that. good morning to you.

>> good morning. with these crazy low temperatures, you may think the ice is thick and safe to walk out on, but don't be fooled. thin ice is everywhere, breaking without warning. kids playing on ponds, falling in, people chasing their pets on to the ice, crashing down, and once you're trapped under water, under that ice, the clock is ticking. this morning, i'm going in to show you how to get out alive. one minute i'm walking on a frozen pond, the next -- the ice cracks open, sucking me under, the water is bone-chilling.

>> when the water touches your face, it's debilitating.

>> reporter: it's a dangerous scene playing out every winter from california --

>> give me the rope.

>> reporter: -- to new jersey. from people to pets.

>> come here. let me get it, okay.

>> reporter: suzanne myer got trapped trying to save her dogs. they got loose and p ran on to this frozen pond out back. the ice cracked and they fell in. so suzanne ran on to the pond to save them.

>> two seconds later, crack, boom, i'm in the water. 12 feet under.

>> that fast?

>> that fast.

>> her husband saw it and called 911. it took rescuers to pull suzanne and the dogs out.

>> you thought you were going to die here?

>> well, i knew i was going to die here. i was so terrified.

>> reporter: and i'm about to find out just how terrifying it is. we teamed up with certified rescuers to show you how to get out alive. we had an ambulance on standby and rescue trainer jerry by my side. i walked out on to the frozen pond, and in an instant, i'm under.

>> oh, that is cold.

>> reporter: survival tip number one, put your hand over your mouth and nose the moment you go in.

>> if you take a breath of cold water , it's going to shut down your airway and you're going to stop breathing, cardiac arrest will follow shortly after that.

>> if i wasn't wearing this suit right now, what would be happening?

>> if you had regular clothing, they would become heavy very quickly and it's going to suck you right under the ice.

>> reporter: and once you're trapped under the ice, your chance of survival plummets. all this as your arms and legs go numb.

>> i'm a good swimmer and this is harder than i thought.

>> reporter: i can't get a grip on the ice. survival tip number two, carry ice picks if you're planning to play on a frozen lake or pond. the metal spikes dig in so you can pull yourself out. they cost only a few dollars at outdoor stores.

>> just short, choppy strokes. and once you're out, you need to roll away from the hole.

>> yep.

>> roll away because we're distributing our weight across the ice. good job.

>> reporter: what do you do if your friend or relative falls in? here's what not to do. watch this dramatic video from california. that man falls through the ice, bystanders try to get him out, then they fall in, too. one after the other, after the other. survival tip number three, stay onshore and try a rescue from there.

>> take a rope and can throw it to the victim.

>> a rope or branch or anything.

>> tell him to wrap it around his wrist and help pull him out.

>> that way you're safe and i'm safe, too.

>> that's correct.

>> nice to be out of the water. here's the problem, lakes and ponds freeze in patches, even on the same pond, one section may have thick ice, a few feet away, dangerous, thin ice . you can't tell. the best advice is to stay off the ice entirely. but if you have to go on it, for some reason your kids have to play on the ice, there are a couple of things you can do. seems very simple, but go out -- wake up. out with a whistle so you can call for help .

>> and speaking of coats, this is a great one.

>> you can buy this at outdoor stores, as well. it's not bad. it's sort of stylish, looks like a regular ski jacket , called a float coat. one of the most dangerous things, if you get sucked under the ice, this will keep you floating to the top and keep your head above water. very important.

>> which can give you a few extra seconds to survive. great information. really appreciate it.