Ice Safety in All Weather - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Ice Safety in All Weather

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With the constant thawing and freezing that comes with the rapidly changing temperatures we've been seeing in the QCA so far this winter comes questions about ice safety.

There are some basic things we all need to know to stay safe out on the ice.

According to guidelines from the Department of Natural Resources, you should stay off the ice until it's at least two inches thick; four inches is the minimum for ice fishing. The DNR recommends at least five inches for ATV or snowmobiles and at least a foot of ice for your average truck.

But remember, even under ideal conditions, the ice is never the same thickness all the way across a body of water, and whether it's 30 degrees out or 30 below, there is always a chance you could fall through.

"There is no such thing as safe ice," said Bud Mix, a Savanna firefighter who has been leading ice rescue trainings for area fire departments for 30 years now. For the last six years, he has taken those lessons into high school classrooms, too.

Mix says it's critical to know what you're doing before you head out.

It's important to know what to look for. Snow covered ice is tricky, because the snow, while it's an insulator, makes it so you can't see where the ice begins or ends and it adds extra weight on the ice. When the snow melts, that's tricky, too. That allows more sunshine to melt the ice and the water left behind by the melted snow erodes the ice.

"Basically when you see water on ice, you don't want to be on ice," Mix advised.

He also says it is important to know how to get yourself out of a jam if your find yourself on thin ice.

"Lay down and roll, or crawl, slither away from that dangerous area," he said.

And, it's important to know what to do if the worst should happen and you fall through.

"The most important time is that first few seconds up to two or three minutes after they go into the water for whether or not they are going to live or die," Mix said.


If you do go through the ice, stay calm and stay afloat.

"Hypothermia is not the killer so much as the drowning," Mix explained.

Another big survival rule: Never go into the water to try to pull another person out. Mix points out that more than 60 percent of people who die in cold water incidents are would-be rescuers.

Two people died in Chicago trying to help a friend just last week.

"If you see somebody that goes through the ice, the most important thing is to call 911 and get your fire department on the way," Mix said.

The fire department has the equipment and the training to make a safe rescue.

But, there is one piece of equipment everyone should have with them at all times on the ice: ice picks. They cost around ten dollars and can be picked up where you buy your sporting goods.

Mix says whenever you are out on the ice you should have ice picks around your neck or in an upper pocket for easy access. Leaving them with your fishing gear or on your sled won't do you any good in case of emergency, and in an emergency, they can save your life.

"Try to kick your feet and get horizontal and make short jabs with it and pull yourself onto the ice," Mix said, as he demonstrated how ice picks should be used.

But the best survival tip is not to go into the water in the first place. If you don't know what you are doing, stay off the ice.

In just the past few days alone, there have been some very real reminders of the dangers that come with going out on the ice.

On Sunday afternoon, a 12-year-old boy died in Cartersville, Illinois after falling through the ice on top of a pond. The boy's friend was rescued.

And on Friday afternoon, a pickup truck broke through the ice on Clear Lake in Iowa and sank. Both men inside the truck made it out safely.