When is Ice Safe?

When is Ice Safe?

There really is no sure answer. You can't judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors -- plus the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, the distribution of the load on the ice, and local climatic conditions. As our beautiful lake freezes over for the winter we all need be reminded of what we need to do so that we can enjoy it safely.

According to EMT Rod Brouhard, regardless how well a victim can swim, ice cold water can cause severe hypothermia in less than 30 minutes--leaving the victim too weak to get out of the frigid water.
Safety on the ice requires preparation and diligence. You should try going on the ice the first time with an experienced person. Before you venture out, learn how to stay safe on the ice.

What You Need

  • Crampons (shoe spikes for walking on ice)
  • Personal flotation device
  • Throw rope
  • Set of ice picks

Safety Steps

  • Never go on the ice alone. Naturally occurring ice is unpredictable. Make sure you have proper safety equipment and a buddy.
  • Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) under your winter gear. If driving a car or truck, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources advises NOT to wear a PFD in a closed vehicle. The excess bulk may make it difficult to escape from a car - especially through a window.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. Crampons are used to convert footwear for use on the ice. Some use metal spikes and some use cables - similar to tire chains.
  • Carry ice picks at all times. Put them in an accessible pocket where they will be easy to reach while floating in the water.
  • Carry a throw rope with you. You can buy one, or make one using an empty and clean plastic jug stuffed with nylon rope.
  • Stopping on ice is extremely difficult. When snowmobiling or driving in low-visibility conditions, go slow enough to be able to stop if you see something. Many vehicle accidents happen because the driver couldn't stop by the time he or she saw the hole in the ice.
  • When drivinga vehicle, remove your seatbelt (since you're going slow and easy) and your PFD (see Step 2). Keep your window rolled down to facilitate a quick escape if your car falls through the ice.
  • Make sure you know how to escape from ice, and that you know how to help someone escape ice.

Safety Tips

  • Gauging the strength of ice is very difficult. There is no such thing as 100% safe ice.
  • Never walk or drive on cloudy ice
  • Only go on clear, thick ice
  • Spring ice is NEVER safe
  • The thickness of ice is never consistent - it will be flat on top, but not on the bottom
  • Snow on ice acts as an insulator - it makes ice warmer and weaker
  • Extreme cold snaps will weaken the ice
  • Ice formed over running water (rivers & streams) is more dangerous than ice formed over standing water (lakes & ponds)

Adirondack Ice Safety Infographics

Heading out to Lake Champlain, Lake Placid, Lake George, or another frozen location for winter fun? Whether you're walking out on a lake for some ice fishing, pulling up in a snowmobile, or trying your hand at ice skating, you should know the basics of ice safety! Ice safety information can keep you and your friends and family safe. Take a look at the infographics below to better visualize safe and unsafe ice.

Ice Safety

Remember that if the ice is less than 2 inches - STAY OFF!
4" and thicker - probably safe for walking and ice fishing on foot
5" and thicker - probably safe for ATV or snowmobiling
8-12" and thicker - probably safe for small cars or light pickups
12-15" and thicker - probably safe for medium trucks

And always, your most important tool is common sense.

Thanks to: EMT Brouhard, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Adirondack.Net

Posted: 1/3/2017