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ODNR offers ice safety tips

1/3/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

OHIO — Northeast Ohio, and the Portage Lakes in particular, is a popular location for ice fishing and across-water snowmobiling, but the following tips from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft are useful for anyone who plays on water when it is frozen.

Whether you ice fish on Lake Erie or skate on a pond, here are a few ice safety tips that winter sports enthusiasts should keep in mind before venturing out onto frozen water.

Ice thickness

• Be aware of your surroundings before venturing onto ice. There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. There are many factors other than thickness that can cause ice to be unsafe.

• Avoid standing on ice that is 2 inches or less in thickness.

• Check for known thin ice areas with a local resort or bait shop. Test the thickness yourself using an ice chisel, ice auger or even a cordless one-quarter-inch drill with a long bit. Four inches of new clear ice is the minimum thickness for travel on foot and 5 inches is the minimum for snowmobiles and ATVs.

• Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. If you must drive a vehicle, be prepared to leave it in a hurry: Keep windows down, unbuckle your seat belt and have a simple emergency plan of action you have discussed with your passengers.

• Stay away from alcoholic beverages. Even “just a couple of beers” are enough to cause a careless error in judgment that could cost you your life. And contrary to common belief, alcohol actually makes you colder rather than warming you up.

• Don’t “overdrive” your snowmobile’s headlight. At even 30 mph, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp illuminated the hole in the ice.

• Wear a life vest under your winter gear, or wear one of the new flotation snowmobile suits. It’s a good idea to carry a pair of ice picks that may be homemade or purchased from a sporting goods store that caters to winter anglers. It is difficult to pull yourself back onto the surface of unbroken but wet and slippery ice while wearing a snowmobile suit weighted down with water. The ice picks will help you pull yourself back onto solid ice.

• Do not wear a flotation device when traveling across the ice in an enclosed vehicle.

What should you do if a companion falls through thin ice?

√ Keep calm and think out a solution.

√ Don’t run up to the hole. You’ll probably break through and then there will be two victims.

√ Use some item on shore to throw or extend to the victim to pull him or her out of the water such as jumper cables or skis, or push a boat ahead of you.

√ If you can’t rescue the victim immediately, call 9-1-1.

√ Get medical assistance for the victim. People who are subjected to cold water immersion but seem fine after being rescued can suffer a potentially fatal condition called “after drop” that may occur when cold blood that is pooled in the body’s extremities starts to circulate again as the victim starts to rewarm.

What should you do if you fall in?

Try not to panic. Remain calm and turn toward the direction you came from. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice (here’s where ice picks would come in handy.) Work forward on the ice by kicking your feet. If the ice breaks, maintain your position and slide forward again. Once you are laying on the ice, don’t stand. Instead, roll away from the hole, which will spread out your weight until you are on solid ice.

The best advice is don’t put yourself into needless danger by venturing out too soon or too late in the season.


This information was provided courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft.

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