There is no safe ice, just safe behavior
Every year, Minnesota snowmobilers, skaters, skiers and ice-fishing fans find themselves in cold water. Falling through ice on lakes and rivers, some are severely injured, and many drown. More than half of the 7,000 drownings in the U.S. last year took place in cold water — and almost all of those deaths were entirely preventable. Knowledge is the key to safety on the ice.
What is safe ice? There’s no such thing. You should never stand or drive on ice without being ready to react if it gives way. Ice thickness has less to do with air temperature than with the depth, chemistry, currents and size of that body of water — in other words, things you can’t see.
What can you do to prepare? Ask locals about ice conditions; they can tell you about unsafe areas. Look for warning signs. Create an emergency plan and share it with your companions. Carry a rope, an ice pick and a flotation device.
What if you fall through? You’ll hear a warning crack, probably. Try not to gasp if you fall; it causes you to inhale water. Turn back in the direction you came from and extend your arms to disburse your weight. With a sharp tool, grab the ice and kick your feet while you pull yourself to safety. Stay low. Roll away from the hole. Find warm shelter.
What if someone else falls through? Call 911. Do not go hear the hole — you can’t help by falling in. Follow these steps:
- Preach — shout instructions for self-rescue.
- Reach — extend a rope, a ladder or jumper cables to the victim. If you start to slide toward the hole, let go.
- Throw — a flotation device and a rope and tell the victim to put on the device and wrap up in the rope.
- Row — find a light boat to push to the edge of the hole. Get into the boat and pull the victim over the bow. Be sure there is a rope on the back of the boat so that others can pull you to safety.
- Go — find more help. Meanwhile, keep the victim awake and reassured that help is on the way.