Walking, driving, or snowmobiling onto the lake this winter? There are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure you stay safe.

Kevin Tordisse is the operations manager with the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba and he says before leaving home, make sure someone knows where you're going and when you plan to return, in case an emergency incident occurs. Tordisse notes when you arrive at the lake it's important to check the thickness of the ice on foot before venturing out with a vehicle to ensure the thickness is sufficient to hold the weight of a vehicle. He says to slowly walk onto the lake and check the thickness where you plan to set-up.

"If you're walking you need at least ten centimetres of solid, thick ice. That's about four inches. If you're talking about a snowmobile you need to be more like 12 centimetres or five inches. For a small vehicle, like a car, you need to be between 20 and 30 centimetres, that brings it to about eight to 12 inches. For a truck, like a pick-up truck, you need to be between 30 and 38 centimetres or 12 to 15 inches."

Tordisse says when planning to be out on the ice for the day, it's important to never be alone, keep an emergency kit on hand, and check the weather before heading out.

"We would say, if you're driving your vehicle out onto the ice you should have your windows open," notes Tordisse. "You should be tracking at slow speeds and only on ice that you know you've tested. If you're walking on the ice and the ice begins to crack, the best thing to do is simply lie down on your stomach and crawl back in the direction you came from."

Tordisse says if an individual falls through the ice the first minute is the most critical in keep respiratory and breathing problems under control. Then the first ten minutes, even in very cold water, the muscles still have enough strength to aid in pulling yourself up out of the water.

"What we would tell people to do is turn around and go back the way they came. Get their arms up on the ice, reaching out as far as they can and then kick with their legs [until their in a] horizontal position. Then begin to inch forward or roll out of the hole and roll back to shore."

He says the person then needs to be in a warm environment and in dry clothing. Tordisse adds hypothermia does not happen instantaneously, rather it takes closer to an hour of submersion in cold weather conditions, contrary to many misconceptions.