Danger: Thin Ice!
Going out on the ice?
Go safely! If you are headed out to go skating, ice fishing, or ice boating, check
first to be sure the ice is safe. Check the thickness.
Although many factors can cause ice to be unsafe, there are some guidelines for
the recommended thickness of new, clear, solid ice:
=> 4" of new clear ice is the minimum thickness for travel on foot
=> 5" is the minimum for snowmobiles and ATVs
=> 8"- 12" is recommended for cars or small trucks.
You can test the thickness yourself using an ice chisel, ice auger or even a
cordless 1/4 inch drill with a long bit. You can also check with some of the
locals - at a resort or bait shop-about known thin ice areas.
Also, don't drive on ice unless you have to. 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
What 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 them 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 911.
=> 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 re-warm.
What if YOU fall in?
First, try very hard not to panic. Instead, remain calm and turn toward the
direction you came from. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of
the ice. Work forward on the ice by kicking your feet. If the ice breaks, maintain
your position and slide forward again. Once you are lying on the ice, don't
stand. Instead, roll away from the hole. That spreads out your weight until you
are on solid ice. This sounds much easier than it really is to do.
The best advice is don't put yourself into needless danger by venturing out too
soon or too late in the season. Each year at least a few vehicles go through the ice
on New England's lakes and ponds.
Many thanks to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for these helpful tips.