You’re on thin ice if you don’t know the dangers of winter drowning. Think safety before you hit the ice!
When Arctic blasts cause ice to form over lakes and ponds, hardy souls throughout the land gather on the frozen surfaces to enjoy hockey, ice skating, snowmobiling and ice fishing. But how do you know when the ice is thick enough to safely venture on it? That’s one of the most common questions every winter because weak or thin ice is extremely dangerous, as evidenced by the recent drowning tragedy of two teenage boys in New Jersey falling through partially frozen ponds. To help you stay safe, Security Specialists has laid out how to test ice thickness and handle yourself on a frozen body of water to prevent drowning.
- Ice thickness depends on the waterbody and surrounding conditions. Ice does not freeze at a uniform thickness and ice strength can vary considerably from one area to another.
- Check the ice thickness before you travel on it. There should be at least 10 cm (4 inches) of ice to walk on, 20 cm (8 inches) to drive a snowmobile or ATV on, 30 cm (12 inches) to drive a car or light truck on, and more than 30 cm (12 inches) to drive a heavy truck on.
- However, ice thickness is just one factor to consider in ice safety. Ice color also should be taken into consideration. Clear blue ice is strongest while white opaque ice (snow ice) is roughly half as strong as blue ice. Opaque ice formed by wet snow freezing on the ice surface. GREY ICE IS UNSAFE. The grey color indicates the presence of water. Clear, hard ice is the only ice recommended for travel.
- Also avoid ice that:
- is slushy in appearance;
- has thawed then frozen again;
- is near moving water;
- is layered, caused by sudden temperature changes; and
- has structures on it, such as pressure ridges.
- It’s also a good idea to always check with local authorities before heading out and try to avoid going out on ice at night.
If You Get Into Trouble On The Ice And You’re Alone:
- Call for help.
- Resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in. The ice is weak in this area.
- Use the air trapped in your clothing to get into a floating position on your stomach.
- Reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down. Kick your legs to push your torso on the ice.
- When you are back on the ice, crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your arms and legs spread out as far as possible to evenly distribute your body weight. Do not stand up! Look for shore and make sure you are going in the right direction.
If You Are On The Ice With Others:
- Rescuing another person from ice can be dangerous. The safest way to perform a rescue is from shore.
- Call for help. Consider whether you can quickly get help from trained professionals (police, fire fighters or ambulance) or bystanders.
- Check if you can reach the person using a long pole or branch from shore – if so, lie down and extend the pole to the person.
- If you go onto ice, wear a PFD and carry a long pole or branch to test the ice in front of you. Bring something to reach or throw to the person (e.g. pole, weighted rope, line or tree branch).
- When near the break, lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole.
- Remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device (pole, rope, line or branch) to the person.
- Have the person kick while you pull them out.
- Move the person to a safe position on shore or where you are sure the ice is thick. Signal for help.
Any activity on ice comes with a risk. By following these common-sense tips, you and your family can safely enjoy winter wonderland and avoid the dangers of drowning.
All of us at Security Specialists Want You To Stay Safe This Winter!