Walking on Thin Ice: Facts That Could Just Save Your Life

Danger - ice breaksIn Chicago this morning the thermometer read a frigid -9F (-23C). We had our first real snow of the season last weekend and the ice rinks are almost ready for use. Winter is here!!!! But drowning knows no seasons. When we think of ice and snow, we don’t think of drowning, but the risk remains, particularly in those areas that were open water and are now ice or so snow-covered you don’t even know there is ice underneath, and possibly water underneath too thin ice.

Here is some ice trivia that may just save your life:

  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly-formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially-thawed ice may not.
  • Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.
  • Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges and culverts. Also, the ice on outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support.
  • Ice near shore can be weaker than ice that is farther out.

Here are some general ice thickness guidelines, but always contact local authorities to verify conditions before you venture out:

For New, Clear Ice Only

2” or less – STAY OFF

4’’ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot

5” – Snowmobile or ATV

8” – 12” – Car or small pickup

12” – 15” – Medium truck

If someone does fall in, here are some tips from the State of Minnesota:

  • Call 911 for help immediately if you or someone nearby has a cell phone.
  • Do not run to the edge of the hole – there is a good chance you will also fall in, especially if it was a lighter child or a pet that broke through the ice.
  • PREACH – shout to the victim to encourage them to fight to survive and reassure them that help is on the way.
  • REACH ‑ If you can safely reach the victim from shore, extend an object such as a rope, ladder, or jumper cables to the victim. If the person starts to pull you in, release your grip on the object and start over.
  • THROW ‑ Toss one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim. Have them tie the rope around themselves before they are too weakened by the cold to grasp it.
  • ROW ‑ Find a light boat to push across the ice ahead of you. Push it to the edge of the hole, get into the boat and pull the victim in over the bow. It’s not a bad idea to attach some rope to the boat, so others can help pull you and the victim to safety.
  • GO ‑ A non‑professional shouldn’t go out on the ice to perform a rescue unless all other basic rescue techniques have been ruled out.
  • If the situation is too dangerous for you to perform the rescue, call 911 for help and keep reassuring the victim that help is on the way and urge them to fight to survive. Heroics by well‑meaning but untrained rescuers sometimes result in two deaths.

Frozen water can be every bit as much fun as liquid water if you know how to be safe – so grab your skates and get out there – after you check to make sure the ice is safe!

Thanks to my Canadian friend, Kerry Grier, for sharing some great ice facts with me for today’s post, they definitely know their ice up north!

About the Author

Global water safety for children is my passion and I can't wait to get up every day to work at it! I blog about water safety regularly at http://www.RebeccaWearRobinson.com, or you can follow me on Twitter at RebeccaSaveKids. Rebecca is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


7 Responses to “Walking on Thin Ice: Facts That Could Just Save Your Life”

  1. This is good to know because I live in the South and even though we rarely see ice, I need to know what to do in the rare chance that I might, the weather has been so weird this year it just might happen!

    • True Julie! It’s the unexpected ice that can be most dangerous, just like us hardened Chicago folks have less trouble driving on icy roads because we are used to it! Now endless warmth and
      sunshine might cause us problems….

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!