From the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association:
As cold weather strong-arms its way into our lives for the next few months it is time to remember a few winter safety tips. Today the focus is on ice safety
Naturally occurring ice is unpredictable. There are no guarantees and always consider ice dangerous. Ice thickness will not be uniform over the pond, lake, stream or river. Be aware that ice tends to be thinner on lakes and ponds where there are spring holes, inlets or outlets.
Don’t venture on to ice bound rivers or streams as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable. Snow covered ice also gives an illusion of safety but do not be fooled. Snow is an insulator and the ice below is most likely thinner and weaker. Consider what is below the ice also. Do you know how deep the water is? Do you know the currents? Do you know the water temperature? Most importantly ALWAYS travel out with friend. It’s more fun and it’s safer.
What if you, or a friend, chose to venture out onto unknown ice anyway and fall in? As with any emergency, don’t panic! If you are alone and fall through the ice, briefly call for help. It doesn’t take long for the cold water to start slowing your physical and mental functions, so you must act quickly. Air will remain trapped in your clothes for a short time aiding your buoyancy. Kick your legs while grasping for firm ice. Once your torso is on firm ice, roll towards thicker ice. This will better distribute your weight. Remember that ice you previously decided to walk on should be the safest. After you reach safe ice, don’t waste precious time, you need to warm up quickly to prevent hypothermia. Seek shelter and medical attention immediately.
If a companion falls through the ice remember the phrase “Reach-Throw-Go” If you are unable to reach your friend from shore, throw him or her a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, ski pole, scarf, or other object. If this does not work, go for help. Don’t waste time and try to make a rescue yourself. Most likely you will also become a victim.
When walking near ice, keep your pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice do not attempt to rescue the pet, go for help. Pet owners all too easily become rescue victims when trying to assist.
If you have to be around a body of water for any reason remember to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) and take a friend with you as discussed earlier. Play it safe. If you want to do any ice related recreational activities activity use a facility that is designed for such purposes.