7 ways to stay safe on ice, and what to do if you fall through

Whether you want to put on your skates or make a hole to fish from, you need to be prepared if the ice cracks.

There is not a reliable "inch-thickness" to determine if ice is safe, and ice-covered snow should always be considered unsafe, the Department of Natural Resources states. 

No matter what activities you want to enjoy, having lifesaving tips and tools is crucial for survival.  

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife provides these safety tips to prevent a fatal mistake: 

  • Be aware of ice and weather conditions by checking online or calling ahead. Educate yourself on proper tools and techniques for checking ice conditions. Looks can be deceiving! Always test the ice rather than relying on its appearance.
  • The buddy system is best on the ice so try not to go alone. Let someone know your plan and where you're going. If someone requires rescue, call 911 for help - attempting a rescue could cause you to also fall through the ice.
  • Always wear a life jacket or float coat. Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over winter clothing. Life jackets provide excellent flotation and protection from the cold.
  • Assemble personal safety items, such as ice picks and a whistle, which should be attached to you while on the ice. Other essential equipment includes a rope or throw bag and a cell phone. Keep your cell phone in a secure pocket or waterproof pouch to make it more accessible if calling for help.
  • Wait to enjoy alcoholic beverages. Alcohol in your system increases the likelihood of hypothermia and poor choices. Stay hydrated with water and warm liquids.
  • Keep pets on a leash at all times.  Never allow your pet to run out onto the ice, and do not walk your pet near a frozen lake or pond without a leash. If your dog falls through the ice, do not attempt a rescue. Call for help.
  • Remember – Reach-Throw-Go. If someone falls through the ice, and you can't reach the person from shore, throw a flotation device or rope. If you still can't quickly help the person, go or call for help.

And if you do break through the ice, here are seven tips on what you should do from the Michigan DNR:

  • Remain calm
  • Don't remove winter clothing. Heavy clothes won't drag you down but instead, provide warmth.
  • Turn in the water toward the direction you came from; this is most likely the strongest ice.
  • If you have ice picks, dig the points of the picks into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet to pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
  • Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.
  • Get to shelter and remove your wet clothing, redressing in warm, dry clothing and consume warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages as soon as you can.
  • Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia, which is a life-threatening condition.