Article Posted: January 16, 2004

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ODNR offers ice safety tips
COLUMBUS, OH -- With winter in full swing, the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources (ODNR) urges outdoor enthusiasts who venture onto frozen lakes and
ponds for ice fishing, skating, and other activities to do so with extreme
Ohio's changeable weather, and the speed at which ice can melt and shift,
guarantees that it is never 100 percent safe. Ice quality and thickness
often vary greatly on the state's waterways. And numerous factors (many
unseen!) can change a safe outing to one that is deadly.
"We recommend that all persons who go out onto the ice wear a life jacket or
float coat, be dressed appropriately to prevent hypothermia, and be prepared
to handle any type of emergency that may occur," said Ken Alvey, chief of
the ODNR Division of Watercraft.
Snow cover, wind, thawed and re-frozen ice, and under-flowing water all
cause unseen changes in ice quality. Ice on ponds with operating aeration
systems is often weaker than it appears and may be unsafe. Any boating
activity that might occur also impacts ice quality.
In general, newly formed ice that is at least 4 inches thick will support an
adult for walking. However, once the same thickness of ice has aged through
freezing and re-thawing or through other degrading forces, it may no longer
be safe.
ODNR recommends that anyone planning an outdoor activity involving
ice-covered water wear a life jacket and be prepared for the possibility of
falling through the surface. In addition to the risk of drowning, an
individual falling through ice may become victim to hypothermia, a
potentially fatal loss of body heat.
Tips for staying safe out on the ice:
* First, always remember that ice-covered water is never completely
* Anyone new to ice fishing, or interested in learning how to safely
ice fish, should seek out a licensed ice-fishing guide. A list of certified
guides is available by calling the ODNR Division of Wildlife's Sandusky
office at 419-625-8062. Ask at a local bait shop about known areas of thin
or dangerous ice.
* Always go out with friends and let others know when you will be on
the ice and when you will return. If possible, take with you a cellular
phone wrapped in a plastic bag.
* Use safe alternatives to local streams or lakes for skating or
sledding. Delaware State Park in Delaware County and Dillon State Park in
Muskingum County offer free access to their ice-skating areas.
* Understand wind chill factors are relative temperature guides.
Although a thermometer may read 40 degrees, a wind speed of 20 miles per
hour can cause a body to lose heat as if the temperature were actually 18
* Carry two ice picks, screwdrivers, or large nails to create leverage
for pulling yourself out of the water. They are much more effective than
bare hands. Also, carry a whistle or other noisemaker to alert people that
you are in distress.
* Dress in layers and add extra clothing for the head, neck, sides,
and groin, which are the primary heat-loss areas. Wool and modern synthetics
are good fabric choices for clothing; cotton when wet is slow to dry.
* Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or float coat. Life vests
provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia.
* Keep an extra set of clothes in your car in case you do need dry
* Avoid alcoholic beverages. In addition to reducing reaction times,
alcohol lowers your internal temperature and increases the chances of
suffering hypothermia.
* Never drive a vehicle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle onto ice.
Leave this to professional guides. This is extremely dangerous and most
insurance policies will not cover ice fishermen's vehicles that have dropped
through the ice.
Ice conditions on Lake Erie can vary from area to area and anglers are
encouraged to use the services of a reputable ice-fishing guide. Additional
information on waterway safety, fishing opportunities and other ODNR
programs is available at

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