Be safe on the ice

  • MIKE ROCHE

Published: 12/14/2019 6:54:43 AM

It has been my practice each year since I began writing the Sportsman’s Corner to devote a column to ice safety. There have been unfortunate incidents locally in the past and hopefully some that did not occur as a result of readers taking heed to the safety rules and precautions which are reprinted here from information available on the MassWildlife website or from a number of other resources which provide useful information for those venturing out on the frozen waters of the North Quabbin Region.

Each year, New England residents safely enjoy outdoor recreation on frozen lakes and ponds ice skating, ice fishing, or just walking on the frozen surface. Unleashed pets can also run onto ice and people chase them. This column is written to help learn safety tips about cold water safety and exposure.

There are no guarantees. Always consider ice to be potentially dangerous. You can’t judge ice conditions by appearance or thickness alone; many other factors like water depth, size of the water body, water chemistry, currents, snow cover, age of ice, and local weather conditions impact ice strength.

Some ice tips to remember

New ice is stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.

Ice doesn’t freeze uniformly. Continue to check ice conditions frequently as you venture out onto the ice.

Ice formed overflowing water and moving currents is often more dangerous. Avoid traveling onto ice-bound rivers and streams, as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable. Many lakes and ponds may contain spring holes and other areas of currents that can create deceptively dangerous thin spots.

Before heading out onto the ice

Tell someone your plans, including where you are going and when you expect to return.

Come prepared. Carry a cell phone in case of emergency. Always carry ice picks and rope with you on the ice. In case of emergency, drive the nails of the ice picks into the ice and pull yourself to safety while kicking.

Wear a life jacket. If you fall in, a life jacket will keep you at the surface and can provide insulation against the effects of cold water.

Ice thickness guidelines

These guidelines listed below are for clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds. White ice or snow ice is only about half as strong as new clear ice and can be very treacherous. Use an ice chisel, auger, or cordless drill to make a hole in the ice and determine its thickness and condition. Bring a tape measure to check ice thickness at regular intervals.

Ice of 2 inches or less: stay off!

Ice of 4 inches: ice fishing or other activities on foot.

Ice of 5 inches: snowmobile or ATV.

Ice of 8-12 inches: Car or small pickup truck.

Ice of 12-15 inches: Medium truck.

If you fall in

Don’t panic.

Call for help if there are people nearby.

Don’t remove winter clothing: Air trapped in your clothes can provide warmth and help you float.

Turn the direction you came from: Ice you previously walked on should be the safest.

Place your hands and arms on an unbroken surface and kick your legs. If you have ice picks or a pair of nails, use them to pull yourself up onto the ice while kicking.

Lie flat and roll away. Once your torso is on firm ice, roll toward thicker ice to distribute your weight.

Find shelter and get warm. Change out of wet clothing and find warm, dry coverings. If you are in a remote area, get to or start a campfire. Otherwise, get to a car or house. Seek medical advice from your physician on medical attention.

If someone else falls in

Remember the phrase “PREACH-REACH-THROW-GO.”

Preach: Call 911 if you can. Shout to the victim to reassure them help is on the way.

Reach: If you can safely reach them from shore, extend an object like a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or ladder to them.

Throw: Toss one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim.

Go: If the situation is too dangerous for you to perform a rescue, call 911 or go to find help. Untrained rescuers can become victims themselves.

If a pet falls in

Do not attempt to rescue the pet. Go find help. Well-meaning pet owners can easily become victims themselves when trying to assist their pets. Remember to always keep pets leashed while walking on or near ice.

It is a good idea to take the time to have the things you can use in an emergency situation — a rope, something that floats you can throw to someone and attach to the rope, a life jacket can easily be stowed under a seat or in the trunk, ice picks (you can throw them to someone); and the means to call 911 can all make the difference if you come upon an emergency ice situation.

Wow! Have you ever seen snow disappear like that! Twenty inches gone in two days! It will be interesting to see what Mother Nature has in store for us as we finish deer season.


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