Ice Thickness Safety

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December 12th, 2023

Winter is here, and so are the frozen lakes and ponds. But before you lace up your skates or grab your fishing rod, you need to know how to stay safe on the ice. Ice thickness is not something you can judge by its color, appearance, or temperature. It can vary greatly from one spot to another, depending on factors such as water depth, currents, snow cover, and air bubbles. That’s why you should always check the ice thickness before venturing out, and follow some simple rules to avoid falling through the ice.

Check the thickness of the ice

Before venturing out on the ice, it’s important to check the thickness of the ice. The Canadian Coast Guard recommends a minimum thickness of 10 cm (4 inches) for ice fishing or skating on ice.

The recommended minimum ice thickness for different activities are:

  • Ice fishing or skating: 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Snowmobiling: 5 inches (12 cm)
  • Car or small pickup: 8-12 inches (20-30 cm)
  • Medium truck: 12-15 inches (30-38 cm)
  • Gargantuan reptile beast: 30+ inches (76+ cm)

You can measure the ice thickness by using an ice auger, a chisel, or a cordless drill. Make sure you check the ice in several places, as it can vary in thickness and strength. Avoid areas with cracks, holes, slush, or flowing water, as they indicate weak ice.

Avoid going alone

Going on ice alone is never a good idea. You should always bring a buddy or a group of friends when you venture on ice. This way, you can look out for each other and help each other in case of an emergency. You should also tell someone else where you are going and when you plan to return, so they can alert the authorities if you don’t show up.

Wear appropriate gear

Another way to stay safe on ice is to dress appropriately for the weather and the activity. Wear warm, waterproof, and layered clothing that allows you to move freely. Avoid wearing cotton, as it absorbs moisture and loses its insulating properties. Wear wool or synthetic fabrics instead. Also, wear a hat, gloves, and boots to protect your extremities from frostbite.

One thing you should always wear on ice is a life jacket or a flotation device. This will help you stay afloat and conserve body heat if you fall into the water. You can also wear ice picks or ice claws around your neck, which are sharp tools that can help you grip the ice and pull yourself out. A whistle, and a rope are also good to bring in case of an emergency.

Be aware of conditions

Avoid areas with moving water, such as near a river or stream. The ice near these areas is often thinner and more dangerous. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and avoid going out on the ice if the weather is expected to change. Changing weather can cause ice to become unstable and dangerous.

Know what to do if you fall through the ice

Even if you follow all the safety tips, there is still a chance that you might fall into the water. If that happens, don’t panic. Try to remain calm and follow these steps:

  • Call for help. If you have a buddy or a group, shout for their assistance. If you have a phone, call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Don’t remove your clothing. Your clothing can trap air and provide some buoyancy and insulation.
  • Turn toward the direction you came from. The ice there is more likely to be solid and support your weight.
  • Kick your feet and use your ice picks or ice claws to dig into the ice. Try to pull yourself onto the ice by sliding forward like a seal.
  • Once you are on the ice, roll away from the hole. Don’t stand up until you are on solid ground.
  • Get to a warm and dry place as soon as possible. Remove your wet clothing and wrap yourself in blankets. Seek medical attention if needed.

Have Fun!

Ice can be a great source of fun and adventure, but it can also be dangerous. By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of accidents and enjoy the winter wonderland safely. Have fun and stay safe on ice!