Frozen Lake Safety: How To Stay Safe While Ice Skating

How to Stay Safe on Frozen LakesFrozen lakes can spark memories and fun for many people. Whether it is a day ice fishing or playing hockey with a group of classmates, frozen lakes are meant to be for enjoyment. However, they pose a lot of threats which should be taken seriously. When playing sports on frozen lakes, there are several risks involved. From thickness to age, ice can vary in many ways. Before you grab your hockey gear and head to the lake, you need to know the methods of determining potential threats to safety, that way you can prevent accidents to make sure that the only pain involved is losing a game of hockey.

Know the Thickness of the Ice

Many people would assume that skating on paper-thin ice is not safe. But how thick is safe? And is it safe for everyone? How does someone possibly measure the thickness of ice? Learn how to best figure that out in the following questions and answers.

How Thick Should the Ice Be?

First, it is important to know that no matter how thick, there is no guarantee that the ice that you are about to step on is perfectly safe. There are a few precautionary measures that you can take to decrease your chance of cracking ice.

In general, four inches of new clear ice is the absolute minimum for foot traffic. If you plan on spending an extended amount of time on the ice, you want to make sure that the ice is even thicker. You also want thicker ice depending on what you want to do on the ice.

For instance, the ice should be at least five inches thick if you want to drive a snowmobile on it. And if you want to drive a car onto it, it should be at least eight inches thick. Remember, the thicker the ice, the safer you are to go on it.

How to Measure the Ice

Measuring Ice ThicknessThere are many ways to measure ice thickness. However, the most common is using a drill bit. Take a step close to the shore and listen for cracking. If there is cracking, do not risk going out on the ice. If there is no cracking, take a cordless drill and check the thickness using an extended drill bit. Knowing the size of the drill bit, you can see how thick the ice actually is.

Identifying Dangerous Ice

Not all ice is created equal. From cracks to cloudiness, there are many ways to identify whether the ice that you are stepping out on is safe.

Cracks and Seams

Anywhere that the ice is cracked or has appeared to thaw and refreeze can be a hazard. This is because these areas are more likely to be weak.

Snow

Ice with snow on it is not safe. This is because snow is warmer than ice, which can actually insulate and melt the ice. Snow can also be very heavy, and put a large amount of pressure on the ice. The more weight that is on the surface of the ice, the more likely it is to break.

Slush

Slush is not ice. If you are seeing areas that appear slushy, it will not be safe enough for ice sports. Slush is a sign of freezing and thawing repeatedly, and when this happens, the ice becomes weakened. This is because there are many cracks that are susceptible to being opened up again.

Color

Any ice that is not crystal clear is not fresh. Because of this, the ice could have been thawed and frozen again. When this occurs, the ice may not be safe. Black ice can also form on lakes. Black ice is completely transparent and can make it look like there’s a gap in the ice.

Old Ice

Old ice is not as strong as fresh ice. This is because the temperature over the time the ice has been there has not been consistent, which might cause the ice to shrink and expand. This type of ice is more likely to crack.

Have Safety Measures In Order

Safety is key. While you never want to see yourself in a position where you have to respond to falling through a frozen lake, it is important to prepare for the worst-case scenario. In the event that ice cracks below you or someone near you, there are steps necessary to respond.

Never Go Alone

Always having someone go with you helps in the event that ice does crack. Take a person who knows how to respond in the event of an emergency. Besides never going alone, let others know where you will be. If something happened to both of you, there will be people who will know where you are and can look for you.

Never Go in the Dark

If you cannot see the ice or the surrounding people, you will not be safe. Besides this, you want to make sure that others can see you in the event that the ice cracks.

Never Go on Ice While Impaired

You should never go on ice while under the influence of any substance, alcohol or otherwise. While impaired, you will not be able to use your best judgment. Because of this, it is best to avoid ice.

Don’t Stand Near Broken Ice

Broken ice is a sign of weakness in the ice. Even the slightest amount of pressure in weak ice can have serious consequences.

Have a Rescue Plan

From having warm blankets to the tools necessary to pull someone out from water, take the preventative measures necessary to respond. When an emergency does happen, we often do not have time to think. Because of this, it is important to do as much as possible to prepare and be proactive.

Frozen Lake SafetyKnow When to Call 911

While there is a lot that we can do to help a situation, there is a line. An emergency response team can help in the event that someone is drowning, has severe frostbite, or needs other medical attention. If you cannot reach someone in order to help them or do not have the tools to reach them from the shore, call 911 immediately.

Performing a Rescue

While no one wants to think about having to perform a rescue, it is imperative to be prepared for one. It is better to know how to respond and not have to use that knowledge versus someone needing your help and not knowing how to help.

Call 911

When possible, call 911. Professionals will be able to provide the best methods to perform a rescue. They are trained, have experience, and will bring the tools necessary to save someone who has fallen through ice. If reaching professional emergency response teams is not an option, use the below tips to perform a rescue.

Follow the Mantra “Preach, Reach, Throw, Row, Go”

These steps can help you save someone who has fallen through the ice.

Preach

Communicate with the victim and tell them to stay afloat and to continue treading. Encourage them and keep a calm but firm tone. They will likely be panicking, so it is important to not feed the fear. Tell the victim to float on the water, and kick their legs to propel themselves onto the ice.

Reach

If you can reach the victim from land, great! Pull them out and get them warmed up or move forward with any other safety procedures. Try to use a pole or ladder if you cannot reach them by hand.

Throw

If you cannot reach the victim from land, throw them a rope to help pull them out of the water. Be sure to stay on land while pulling in order to have a firm grip and good foundation. If you don’t have a rope, use whatever is handy. A garden hose or a pipe could be good substitutions

Row

You can float out on to the ice with a flotation device. If you are on ice, lie on a raft and pull yourself out to them. If there is water between you and the victim, you can float using anything handy.

Go

In the event that you cannot reach them or talk them through it, you must go save them. While on ice, lie flat on the surface and pull yourself along the ice. By increasing your surface area, you are less likely to fall through. Do whatever you can to reach the victim without being pulled into the hole that they originally fell through.

Have the Right Tools Ready

Be Prepared While on Frozen LakesThe right gear can mean the difference between life and death where a frozen lake is concerned. Here are things you should always have prepared.

  • Cell phone to call 911 in case of emergency
  • Rope to pull the victim out of frozen water
  • Life preserver to help the victim stay afloat
  • Blankets to warm victim upon rescue

It’s much more difficult to perform a rescue when you don’t have the right gear. And in some cases, it can even be impossible.

Getting to the Victim

As previously mentioned, you will want to take precaution when saving someone who just fell through ice. Do not get near the area that they fell through. Instead, get as far as you can while still reaching them.

Reaching the Victim From the Shore

Using a pole, stick, oar, rope, garden hose, chain, or anything else that is handy, reach the victim. By staying on dry land, you will be able to leverage your strength to pull them out. If possible, have more people help you pull.

Treating Hypothermia

When a person loses heat faster than they can produce it, they are suffering from hypothermia. In this case, a body loses energy quickly and rapidly becomes weak, which is terrifying in the event that someone falls through ice. Without immediate medical attention, hypothermia becomes life threatening. This causes organs to shut down, which eventually results in organ failure and death. In the event that a person falls through water, you want to react with hypothermia in mind. And where hypothermia is concerned, there is also a risk of frostbite that you need to take into account.

Stop Heat Loss

Move the victim out of the cold immediately and put them near a heat source. Wet clothing will only create more problems and prevent warmth from getting to the body, so they need to removed as soon as possible. If you have any extra clothing layers, get the person into those dry clothes and cover them in blankets from head to toe, leaving the face exposed to allow breathing.

If you are unable to take the person indoors, keep them off of the cold ground. Use blankets, coats, sleeping bags, or whatever else is available to keep them away from cold.

Because hypothermia is life threatening, you will want a trained and licensed medical professional to help, so you need to call 911. In the event that someone stops breathing or has an extremely low pulse, have someone who is trained to do so perform CPR until medical help arrives.

Rewarm the Victim

Be gentle. By shaking or vigorously rubbing the body, a victim could go into cardiac arrest, so you should only press onto the body gently in order to prevent jarring.

If the victim is showing signs of hypothermia, you need to be especially careful about how you proceed with warming them. Exposing them to too much heat too quickly can cause them to go into shock and cause a lot of pain, so you need to introduce warmth slowly. Don’t use hand warmers or a heating pad until you know they can handle the heat of it.

If you’re able, give them a warm drink. Any sort of soft drink will work in a pinch, but if possible, choose something that doesn’t have caffeine, because caffeine can cause dehydration. Do not give them alcohol under any circumstance, because alcohol is a depressant that will slow down their body’s functions and slow the warming process.

Seek Medical Attention

There are a few ways the medical professionals will treat hypothermia. While the above methods are beneficial, it is important to seek medical advice in order to gauge the severity of the condition, and provide follow-up and recovery.

Conclusion

Stay Safe While Playing on Frozen LakesFrozen lakes are meant to be a fun place for people to do various winter activities. However, it is important to have a safe amount of fear of the ice. Always take precautions, be prepared, and take CPR classes in order to be as knowledgeable as possible in the event of an emergency. Only when you’re sure you know what to do should you grab your hockey stick and hockey skates to go play a game.