In much of the country, the temperature is dropping. Some places have experienced their first snow. As the water starts to freeze, lots of kids are thinking about heading out on the ice. In many cases, that could be a big mistake. In today’s post, let’s talk about the dangers of thin ice.
You Can Never Be Too Sure
First and foremost, you can never be completely sure of how frozen a lake is. All of us, no matter our age, need to be aware of the risk of thin ice. As with any water, frozen or not, drowning danger is a serious threat. In fact, drowning is the number one cause of death for children under the age of four. In these months before winter, the surface of the frozen water may seem secure. Unfortunately, the ice may still be forming. This can lead to a false sense of security.
Don’t just assume the ice is totally frozen. In truth, it may not be thick enough to support your weight. In cases like this, thin ice can lead to fatal results. Each and every year, people unexpectedly break through the ice and suffer serious injuries or even death.
Thin Ice Danger: Cold Water Shock
One of the biggest problems with thin ice stems from cold water shock. In truth, this is often the reason why a person who falls through the ice can die. Put simply, when your body is suddenly submerged in frigid water, a natural response is triggered. The cold water shock can cause you to automatically gasp for a breath of air. Naturally, a person under the water will accidentally breathe in liquid instead of oxygen.
Beyond that first breath, cold water shock can also cause you to hyperventilate and lose mobility in your limbs. Often, this makes victims feel as though they are suffocating. You can learn all about cold water shock in this dedicated blog post.
When is the Ice Thick Enough?
Precautions need to be taken to ensure that ice is safe before taking part in your winter recreational activities, but determining the strength of ice is difficult. There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Most ice-related accidents occur when people don’t understand ice formation or how to read ice conditions. In addition, these accidents are often caused by carelessness, overconfidence, and a lack of appreciation for the risks involved when on the ice.
The fact is, thin ice can crop up in patches anywhere on a surface. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that the ice is strong enough to hold you. The thickness of ice depends on a variety of factors that may change throughout the day or from area-to-area.
However, a basic guideline for ice safety is that the ice should be at least four inches thick for activities like skating or ice fishing. If you’re looking to take a snowmobile across a surface, it should be five to seven inches thick. On the whole, thicker ice is always better. Double those requirements if the ice is covered by snow. Believe it or not, snow can act as an insulator for ice. It may actually make the ice warmer and weaker. Often the weakest ice will be in the center and along the edges. Snow is also heavy, so it adds extra stress on the developing ice.
Thin Ice Safety Tips
If you’re heading out on the ice, here are some tips to stay extra safe.
- Get the all-“clear.” Avoid cloudy ice. You can never be sure about it. Instead, only step onto clear, thick ice.
- Never go alone. If you’re heading out, use the buddy system. Having a friend nearby to help can be a life saver when you’re faced with potential tragedy.
- Wear a life jacket. Whenever there is a risk of drowning, we recommend wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. You can read more about flotation devices in this blog post.
- Bring a cell phone. Many of us never leave home without it, but being able to call for help or use the GPS on your device could end up saving your life.
- Always pay attention to posted signs. When trying to avoid thin ice, listen to the experts. Look for any warning signs that indicate the safety of the ice, and be sure to check with local experts before setting foot on the ice.
- Beware of pets. If you’re walking a dog near the ice, be sure to keep them on a leash. In the event that a pet falls through, do not attempt a rescue alone. Go find help!
- Be prepared. No matter what, it pays to have an emergency plan in place. Also, keep a first-aid kit and extra warm clothes in case of trouble.
Above all, just be prepared for thin ice. The danger can happen suddenly, so it pays to stay prepared. Otherwise, have fun on the ice.