‘Ice Thickness Guide’: Facts About Frozen Lakes & What To Do In Cold Water

(WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Whether it’s for ice fishing, ice skating or just out of curiosity, venturing onto a frozen lake or body of water can quickly become a dangerous activity. Knowing the thickness of this top layer of ice is crucial in determining whether or not it is safe to venture onto a lake.

A minimum thickness of 4 to 5 inches is required to walk and/or fish on ice safely, 5 to 6 inches for a snowmobile and between 8 and 15 inches for a vehicle depending on its size.

If you are unable to gauge the thickness of the ice or are unsure, avoid it completely to avoid the risk of falling into cold water. Cold water can conduct away body heat up to 4 times faster than cold air and when your body comes in contact with cold water it can experience ‘cold shock’ which can lead to dramatic changes in breathing , heart rate and blood pressure.

Sudden gasping and rapid breathing alone create a greater risk of drowning, even for confident swimmers in calm waters. About 20% of those who fall into cold water die within the first minute of immersion due to cold water shock.

The following instructions and pictures of the US Coast Guard will increase your chances of survival:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Minimize time spent in water. Get out as soon as possible safely.
  • If possible, use floating objects to get out of the water.
  • Keep as much of your body out of the water as possible.
  1. Evaluate your options.
  • If you can swim safely, stay calm and do it.
  • If you can’t swim safely, conserve energy and warmth and wait for rescue.
  1. If you can’t get to safety, assume the Heat Release Reduced Position (HELP). This protects critical areas of the body and slows heat loss. The HELP position means:
  • Bring your knees to your chin and keep your legs together.
  • Lean both arms against your side and keep your head above water.
HELP post

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