“Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky”

The winter months offer the opportunity to participate in fun outdoor activities. Sometimes these winter activities involve being on the ice. But even strong swimmers can run into trouble if they fall in the ice. Enjoy the the winter season and stay safe by learning how to judge ice conditions and what to do in a case of an ice emergency.
Before you even step on the ice, check the color. Bluish, clear ice is typically twice as strong as white ice. And just because the weather has been below freezing for several days, don’t risk it and guess about the thickness. You’ll want to ensure the ice is at least 4 – 6 inches thick in several places. There are a few tools you can use to check ice thickness including an auger, chisel or ax. Continue to check the ice as you move forward. Ice rarely freezes uniformly. It may be a very thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.

If the worst does happen, there are some important tips to remember if you do break through the ice.

  • First and foremost, remain calm. Panicking will only expend energy.
  • Instead of trying to climb out (you’ll likely break the ice again), lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick your legs hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice.
  • Then, roll to safety.
  • If someone else fall through the ice, call 911 for emergency help. Don’t run to the edge of the hole. This could result in two people in the water!

Follow the guidelines for Preach, Reach, Throw, Row, Go:

  • PREACH – Shout out to the person in the water to encourage them to fight to survive and reassure them that help is on the way
  • REACH – If you can safely reach the person from shore, extend an object such as a rope, ladder, or jumper cables to the victim. If you start getting pulled in, release your grip on the object and start over.
  • THROW – Toss one end of a rope or something else that will float to the person in the water. Have them tie the rope around themselves before they are too weakened by the cold to grasp it.
  • ROW – Find a light boat to push across the ice ahead of you. Push it to the edge of the hole, get into the boat and pull the person in over the bow. Consider attaching a rope to the boat, so others can help pull you and the person you rescued to safety.
  • GO – A non-professional should not go out on the ice to perform a rescue unless all other basic rescue techniques have been ruled out.

Remember these tips and emergency procedures to keep you and those around you safe on the ice. You may save a life, including your own.