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    Ice Safety Tips

    Ice Safety Tips

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    Even if you don’t live near a lake, river, or pond that freezes over in the winter you might visit places where they do, so it’s a good idea to know some tips about ice safety. A general rule is no ice is ever 100% safe.

    In places like the northern United States, where it’s common to venture out onto ice to recreate in the winter, it’s best to check ice thickness before heading out onto it and then check it again at least every 150 feet. There are a variety of tools you can use to check ice thickness, including an ice chisel, ice auger, cordless drill, and a tape measure. Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe.
    Open waters where there is current flowing, natural springs, or water levels fluctuating underneath the ice are more likely to never be safe enough to venture out onto. Temperature and snow cover can also affect the relative safety of ice. Ice is seldom the same thickness over a single body of water; it can be two feet thick in one place and one inch thick a few yards away.

    The general guide for new, clear ice is to stay off any ice that is less than four inches thick. This chart shows the recommended guidelines for ice thickness on new, clear ice. However, ice with snow on top, referred to as white ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Therefore, you must double these thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

    New, Clear Ice Guidelines
    4" - Ice fishing or other activities on foot
    5" - 7" - Snowmobile or ATV
    8" - 12" - Car
    12" - 15" - Medium Truck

    If you do ever venture out onto ice, have a survival plan for what to do if you fall through. The best thing is to wear a coverall flotation wet suit or insulated dry suit with flotation or you should wear a life jacket. You should also carry a pair of nails, sharpened screwdrivers, or ice picks with you. If you break through the ice, try not to panic! Keep your clothes on in the water because they can trap air for flotation and provide warmth. Turn towards the direction you came from, because that is most likely to have the thickest ice. Kick your legs to get your body as far out on the ice as you can and use your sharp objects to pull yourself out with your arms onto your elbows. You may need to wait briefly for water to drain some from your clothes to be able to pull yourself out farther. Once you’re out, stay lying flat and roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out or you may fall through again. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and re-warm yourself immediately. It’s best to get medical attention. After you begin to re-warm, cold blood trapped in your extremities can come rushing back to your heart. The shock of that may cause ventricular fibrillation leading to a heart attack.

    If you see someone fall through the ice, don't panic. Call 911 or your local emergency number. Avoid the urge to run up to the hole. Heroics by well-meaning, but untrained rescuers, sometimes results in multiple deaths. There are more guidelines on ice rescue and ice safety, specifically about driving onto ice, available online from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at



    Date Taken: 02.12.2019
    Date Posted: 02.13.2019 00:02
    Story ID: 310505
    Location: US

    Web Views: 66
    Downloads: 0