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Ice Safety Tips From MEMA
Staff Reports,
12:03PM / Sunday, December 17, 2017
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The cold weather often means it is time to get out on the lake for some ice fishing, or skating, or any number of outdoor recreational activities.

But, before someone goes out on the ice, they should familiarize themselves with safety precautions because falling through the ice could be deadly.

According to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, ice on moving water is never safe. And ponds and lakes thaw at different rates depending on the water currents, springs, depth, and natural objects in the water. The ice can be a foot thick in some places and only a few inches in others. The daily temperature also plays a role.

MEMA has issued the following tips in helping determine how safe the ice is.

  • Look for slush, which can indicate that the ice is no longer freezing so you face a greater risk of falling through.
  • Beware of snow-covered ice. Snow can hide weak and open ice or cracks.
  • Test the ice strength. Use an ice chisel to chip a hole through the ice to determine its thickness and condition. If it is two inches thick or less, stay off.
  • Never go on ice alone. Another person may be able to rescue you or go for help if you fall through.
  • Keep pets on a leash when walking them near bodies of water so that they don’t run onto the ice.

Guidelines for ice strength:

Ice Thickness (inches) Permissible Load (on new clear/blue ice on lakes or ponds)
2" or less STAY OFF!
4" Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5" Snowmobile or ATV
8"–12" Car or small pickup truck
12"–15" Medium truck

MEMA continues with advice on what to do if somebody does fall through.

  • Do not go out onto the ice to try to rescue a person or pet.
  • Reach-Throw-Go:
    • Try to reach the victim from shore. Extend your reach with a branch, oar, pole, or ladder to try to pull the victim to safety.
    • If unable to reach the victim, throw them something to hold onto (such as a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or life preserver).
    • Go for help or call 911 immediately.
  • If you fall in:
    • Try not to panic.
    • Turn toward the direction you came from and place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, moving forward by kicking your feet.
    • Once back onto unbroken ice, remain lying down and roll away from the hole.
    • Crawl back toward land, keeping your weight evenly distributed.
  • If you can’t get back on the ice, use the Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP):
    • Bring your knees up toward your chest.
    • Cross your arms and hold them close to your body.
    • Keep your legs together.
    • Try to keep your head out of the water.
    • Do not try to swim unless a boat, floating object, or shore is close by. Swimming in cold water cools your body and reduces survival time.

After the person is out of the ice, MEMA suggests.

  • Get medical help or call 911 immediately. The victim needs help quickly to prevent hypothermia.
  • Get the victim to a warm location.
  • Remove the victim’s wet clothing.
  • Warm the center of the victim’s body first by wrapping them in blankets or putting on dry clothing.
  • Give the victim warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids to drink.
  • Place the victim in a warm shower or bath with their arms and legs out of the water to warm the core of the body.
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