GALION — Before residents do any ice skating or fishing on frozen ponds, lakes, or rivers this winter, they should check the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ website, which contains information about ice safety and best practices.
According to ODNR, there is “no such thing as 100 percent safe ice,” noting that many factors affect the strength of ice besides thickness.
ODNR reports that ice doesn’t usually freeze uniformly and said ice formed over flowing water and currents is “often dangerous.” Additionally, thawing and refreezing weakens ice, so ice close to shore tends to be weaker.
ODNR states “a minimum of five inches of ice is recommended for safe enjoyment of ice skating, ice fishing, ice boating and snowmobiling on state park lakes. However, even if the ice is several inches thick, ice-covered water is never completely safe.”
“Do not venture out onto the ice unless you test the thickness,” ODNR warns on its website. The agency recommends 4 inches of new clear ice as the minimum thickness for travel on foot, 5 inches is the minimum for snowmobiles and ATVs, and 8 to 12 inches for cars or small trucks, but also warns to refrain from driving on ice whenever possible.
ODNR encourages residents to check with local resorts or bait shops for information about known thin ice areas.
Some safety tips on ODNR’s website include:
• Never venture onto the ice alone.
• Let someone know when you will be on the ice and when you will return.
• The ODNR Division of Wildlife recommends contacting a licensed ice guide if you plan to ice fish.
• Wear a life jacket or float coat.
• Carry two screwdrivers, ice picks, or large nails to help gain a firm grip, should you have to pull yourself out of the water.
• Avoid areas of thin ice or open water.
• Pay close attention when boating or walking on ice. Cold water will cool a body 25 times faster than cold air of the same temperature.
ODNR reports that if you feel the ice begin to crack beneath you, follow these steps:
• Do not run.
• Lie on your stomach and spread your arms and legs (like an airplane).
• Stretch your arms over your head and bring them together.
• Roll away from the crack. Do not bend your knees or elbows.
If someone has fallen through the ice:
• Do not go onto the ice — if it broke once, it will break again.
• Call for help.
• Tell the victim to hold their hands close to their face and breathe into their hands.
• Toss them something that floats. (Try a cooler, or empty plastic bottle)
• Encourage them to use car keys, a pen, or other object in their pocket to begin to pull themselves onto the ice.
If the victim is close enough to shore, you can help pull them in:
• Kneel or lie face down on solid ground.
• Throw or extend whatever you can find, such as jumper cables or skis, or push a boat ahead of you.
If you fall through the ice:
• Try not to panic.
• Do not remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes will not drag you down. They trap air to provide warmth and flotation.
• Turn toward the direction you came. That is probably the strongest ice.
• Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface.
• Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto the solid ice.
• Lie flat on the ice and roll away from the hole. This will help distribute your weight.
• Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area. Change into dry clothing and drink a warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage.