Indiana DNR

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Stay safe, always assume you are on ‘thin ice’

Last Updated on December 29, 2022 by Indiana Department of Natural Resources

With the inevitable upcoming drop in temperatures across the state, Indiana Conservation Officers advise Hoosiers and visitors of the potential hazards of being on frozen lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

It’s also important to keep a watchful eye for other people who may venture out on neighborhood retention ponds, lakes and, other waterways and find themselves in trouble.

Every winter, thousands of Hoosiers safely enjoy fishing, skating, hiking, or just sliding around on frozen ponds and lakes. And every year, people drown after falling through ice. Don’t let this happen to you or yours.

Similar to needing to drive differently on snowy versus clear roads, being able to safely have fun on ice may require adjusting what you have done in the past. When thinking about getting on the ice, put safety first. Believe all ice is thin ice unless proven otherwise.

Here are a few tips to remember when considering standing on or walking on a frozen body of water:

  • No ice is safe ice.
  • Before going on the ice, leave a note of your whereabouts with a friend or family member
  • If you don’t know the thickness of the ice, don‘t go on it.
  • Don’t test the thickness of the ice while alone.
  • Test the thickness of the ice with an ice auger. At least 4 inches of ice is recommended for ice fishing; 5 inches is recommended for snowmobiling.
  • Carry ice hooks and rope gear.
  • Wear a life jacket or flotation coat.

Wearing a life jacket is especially important when on ice. If you fall through, a life jacket will keep your head above the water until help arrives.

Remember that a new coating of snow, while perhaps beautiful, can make for treacherous ice conditions. Snow can serve as insulation, causing water to freeze at a slower rate. When snow and rain freeze into ice, it is not as strong as solid, clear ice.

Another potentially dangerous situation is when you see a pet or other animal in distress on the ice. If that happens, do not go after it. Instead, contact local emergency response personnel, who are equipped to make a rescue.

A few more tips:

  • Some bodies of water can appear to be frozen solid but have thin ice in several potentially unexpected areas.
  • Flowing water, such as rivers and streams, should be avoided when covered by a layer of ice.
  • Similarly, water that is surrounded by sand may freeze with inconsistencies in the thickness of the ice.
  • Underground springs, wind, waterfowl, and other animals can also keep areas of ice thin.

Enjoy the winter weather but make safety a priority.

SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Natural Resources