Be Safe on the Ice!
The winter’s first ice is already skimming Minnesota lakes and ponds. Ice skaters, ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and others are ready to get out on it! Unfortunately, every year we hear of people drowning because they broke through ice they thought was safe.
“I know most of us think to ourselves, ‘If I fell through, I’ll just climb onto the solid ice and be just fine,’” said Tim Smalley, water safety specialist for the DNR. “Unfortunately, this can be much easier said than done. First, when you fall through the ice, you’re taken by surprise. If you knew you were going to break through, you wouldn’t have walked in there in the first place.”
The sudden shock of plunging into freezing water adds to the confusion and panic, Smalley said. “Cold water saps body heat twenty-five times faster than air of the same temperature. Just try holding your hand in a cooler full of ice water for more than a few seconds and you’ll see what I mean,” he said.
Then there’s the difficult task of climbing out of the cold water and onto the surface of the wet and slippery ice. Unless people have a plan of action for just such emergencies, their chances of getting out safely can be pretty slim.
“There’s no reason that you can’t have a safe and enjoyable time on the ice as long as you follow some basic safety guidelines. For example, don’t walk on new, clear ice less than four inches thick. Exercise a little common sense,” Smalley said.
“Call ahead to a local bait shop or resort and ask them what the conditions are on the particular lake you’re going to. Also, carry along a set of ice claws, or ice picks, to rescue yourself or a friend.” They can be purchased at a bait shop or sporting goods store. The DNR recommends keeping ice picks in your pocket for quick access.
If you should fall through the ice, try to remain calm. Turn in the water toward the direction from which you came; that is probably the strongest ice. Dig the points of the picks into the ice. Then vigorously kick your feet while pulling yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
Roll away from the area of weak ice. This will distribute weight to help avoid breaking through again. Seek shelter, heat, and warm, dry clothing. Drink nonalcoholic and noncaffeinated drinks. If you or someone you know is shivering uncontrollably or exhibits any other ill effects, call 911.