February 11, 2004
Remember that you take a risk anytime you go out onto the ice. Ice thickness is not consistent. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice.
When ice fishing, it is always a good idea to drill test holes as you progress out onto a lake to help judge the thickness and character of the ice.
Beware of ice around partially submerged objects, such as trees, logs, brush, embankments or dam structures.
Don’t judge ice strictly by appearance.
Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice.
Be aware of ice that forms at the edges of a lake during the fall and melts at the edges first in spring. However, ice generally should be clear and at least four to six inches thick to support one person.
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Beware of ice covered with snow. Sometimes the snow serves as insulation. Other times, it has the opposite effect by insulating the surface from freezing.
Never go out onto the ice alone. A buddy should be there to rescue you or go for help if you fall through. When changing locations on the ice, always walk at least 10 yards apart from your buddy. If one person falls through the ice, the other can go for help.
Before you leave shore, inform someone of your destination and expected time of return.
Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over an ordinary snowmobile suit or layered winter clothing. Life jackets can provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia (loss of body heat). Specialized coats that float or dry suits also are recommended.
Assemble a personal safety kit no larger than the size of a man’s wallet, and carry it on your body. The kit should include a lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter, pocketknife, compass and whistle.
In addition to the above safety equipment, carry ice picks, a rope and a cellular phone. These items could save your life.
Always keep your pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt to rescue your pet. Go for help.
If you break through the ice and cannot get out of the cold water by yourself, take the appropriate actions to extend your survival time while waiting to be rescued:
Stay calm. Do not attempt to swim; swimming will cause your body to lose heat much faster than if you stay as still as possible.
Use a whistle to attract help.
Act slowly and deliberately to conserve heat, and move slowly back to where you entered the water. Expect a progressive decrease in your strength and ability to move. Make the harder moves to attempt to get out at the beginning, while you can.
If you are wearing a snowmobile helmet and your face is in the water, remove the helmet as quickly as possible because it can fill with water and cause you to drown. Hold onto it to keep afloat.
Once on the ice, try to push yourself forward on your stomach or roll on your side to keep the weight distributed over a greater surface area. Do not stand up until you have moved onto the ground or an area of solid ice.