ICE Safety Tips

Jan 25, 2017
Today's news section carries the story of a pair of Ohio ice fishermen who drowned Monday after falling through the ice on Sandy Pond in Oswego. Ice fishing is one of the great winter sports, but it's dangerous. This season's crazy temperature swings have made it an even more hazardous undertaking.

Today, a look at the awareness and safety steps anyone should know before venturing onto ice. A little awareness can keep your pleasant outing from turning into a tragedy.

First, the Coast Guard encourages you to remember the acronym ICE ;

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Get all the weather information before heading out. Know where you're going, how to get there, and how to call for help. Have the proper clothing to prevent hypothermia- and wear bright colors so you can be seen by others. And don't forget safety equipment to help you get out of the water and back onto ice should you fall through.

And checking weather conditions means checking ice thickness, too. Currents cause differences in ice thickness- bridges, inlets, and outlets for water should always be suspects for thin ice. Stay away from cracks, seams, and ridges. Don't go near slushy areas.

Always wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Chances for rescue improve greatly if you do. The involuntary "gasp" or "cold shock response" can cause you to inhale frigid water and begin the drowning process while a PFD allows you to float with a minimum of energy expended, giving you time to collect your wits and start thinking about how to get out of the water.

The Coast Guard suggests carrying a pair of ice picks or screwdrivers. They can be used to dig into the ice and give you something to use to lever yourself out of the water. They are much more effective than hands alone. Don't forget a whistle or noise-making device to call - loudly- for help. Consider a VHS radio or Personal Locator Beacon.

Every year, more than 8,000 people drown in the United States. The US Swim School Association has its list of suggestions that might prevent your becoming a victim of icy water -wherever you live.

Falling Through Thin Ice – What to do.

Brace Yourself: This may be difficult to do at first but due to the immediate change in body temperature and shock from the cold water, the body's immediate reaction is going to be to gasp for air and hyperventilate. Breathing in the freezing water increases the chances of drowning.

Keep Calm: Do not flail your arms; this will release more body heat. The body loses 32 times more heat in cold water than in cold air. Panicking will do nothing, keep your head above the water, grab onto the ice in the direction you came from. This ice should be strong enough to help you out of the water.

Do Not Undress Winter Clothes: Keep winter clothing on while in the water, it will not drag you down. It will help keep in body heat and any air inside the clothing will help you float.

Get Horizontal: Once you've gotten most of your upper body out of the water, kick your legs as strongly as possible in hopes of getting yourself out of the water and onto the ice.

Roll Onto The Ice: Do not stand up, roll over the ice once you're out to help prevent more cracks in the ice and from falling in again. Always stay off ice that's only 3 inches thick or less.

Retrace Your Steps: Once out and far enough away from the hole, trace your footsteps back to safety. Take it slow because your body is still dealing with the affects of the freezing water.

Throw, Don't Go: Never enter the water to rescue someone. If someone is there to help you it is safer for that person to throw a lifesaving device, branch, coat, or rope into the water, wait until you grab hold and then tow you to safety. Otherwise you could both end up in the water.

Get Warm: Once out of the water seek medical attention to bring body temperature back to normal.

To find a USSSA affiliated swim school near you, or for details on becoming a member of the nation's leading swim school organization visit:

Every year thousands of anglers, ATVers and other outdoor enthusiasts safely enjoy their chosen recreational activities in the cold of winter. If you're venturing outdoors, make certain you have the correct protective and safety equipment…especially if you're planning on including any time on the ice.

—Jim Shepherd