There is no such thing as 100-percent safe ice. The strength of ice cannot be determined by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature or whether the ice is covered with snow. Ice strength is based on a combination of factors that vary from body of water to body of water. Ice strength can also vary in different areas within the same body of water. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.
New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly‑formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially‑thawed ice may not.
Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges and culverts. Underwater springs and currents can wear thin spots on the ice from below.
Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice.
If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice.
Never venture out alone and ensure someone on shore knows your plans.
Do not take a vehicle onto the ice at any time.
If you fall through the ice, remain calm and act quickly.
- Do not remove winter clothing. Heavy clothes can trap air, which can help provide warmth and flotation.
- Go back toward the direction you came. That is probably where the strongest ice will be – and what lies ahead is unknown.
- Place hands and arms on the unbroken surface. This is where a pair of nails, sharpened screwdrivers or ice picks can be handy in providing the extra traction you need to pull yourself up onto the ice.
- Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto the solid ice. If your clothes have trapped a lot of water, you may have to lift yourself partially out of the water on your elbows to let the water drain before starting forward.
- Once back on the ice, don’t try to stand up. Lie flat until you are completely out of the water, then roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out. This may help prevent you from breaking through again.
- Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and warm yourself up immediately. In moderate to severe cases of cold-water hypothermia, you must seek medical attention.
If you see anyone in distress on the ice, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt a rescue yourself, without proper rescue and survival equipment. Suffolk Police Marine Bureau vehicles are equipped with ice sleds and cold water exposure suits to safely effect a rescue.