Severe Cold Weather Warning

After a woman and her dog died falling through a frozen river in Oxford last winter, the county's fire and rescue service is warning people to take care as temperatures plummet this week.

The Met Office has issued a severe cold weather warning for the South East of England this week with temperatures falling to lows of minus 5 in some parts of the Thames Valley.

In all, 7 people and four dogs had to be rescued after going out onto frozen ponds during icy weather in Oxfordshire. Berkshire say they had to rescue 11 people from water during last winter. In Hampshire two animals were saved. They included a cat stuck on a duck house (pictured).

                       Hampshire pet rescue 2                                     Hampshire pet rescue 1

Over the last decade more than 20 people have drowned in the UK as a result of venturing out onto ponds and lakes that have frozen over.

More than half of these were trying to rescue other people or dogs. In many instances the dogs managed to scramble out to safety, while the owner, unfortunately, did not.

Stuart Garner, Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service Risk Reduction Manager, said:

"Naturally as an animal owner your first reaction is to help your much loved pet. However, you cannot help when you are in trouble yourself.

"Please always stay off frozen rivers and lakes, the ice can be very thin and the sub-zero water temperature can quickly incapacitate most people.

"If your pet should stray onto the ice and fall through, in many instances animals will manage to scramble ashore unaided while you may be left stranded in the icy water."

Mr Garner says don't throw sticks or balls near frozen water and call 999 and wait for help if your pet does fall through.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service are also reminding people to take extra care when out and about as pavements and roads can become very slippery when covered in frost, ice snow or slush.

Area Manager for Community Safety Steve Trevethick at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:

"Venturing onto frozen ponds, lakes and open water is extremely dangerous; falling through the ice can easily have fatal results.

"The hazards include drowning, asphyxia, and hypothermia. If the ice gives way then it can trap you, and when the weather is like this hypothermia sets in very quickly. Children are particularly at risk, and parents and guardians are asked to remind them of the dangers."

Hampshire have given this advice if you see someone's fallen in:

- Call the emergency services on 999
- Give as much information about the incident and location as possible
- Do not attempt to go out on to the ice yourself
- Tell the person to stay still to maintain heat and energy
- Try finding something that will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole or branch
- Throw the object out and, once ensuring you are stable on the bank either by lying down or having someone hold on to you, pull them in
- If you cannot find something to reach with, try finding an object that will float and push that out to them
- Ensure that you keep off the ice at all times during the rescue
- Continue to reassure the casualty and keep them talking until help arrives