We are into the coldest two months of the year, which means area lakes and ponds are freezing over. Frozen ponds can look inviting, especially to children and pets. Unfortunately, traversing a frozen body of water is never without risk. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the following safety tips, and be sure to tell your children!

With the variable southern Indiana weather, it is impossible to predict the day-to-day strength of ice covering a given body of water. If you choose to risk walking on ice, please be aware that ice which is less than four (4) inches of thickness cannot reliably support the weight of a human being. To even consider walking on ice, it must be clear that it has been frozen for days and not subject to temperatures approaching 32 degrees at any point.

Before walking on ice, first test the thickness by drilling an inspection hole close to the shore. Measure the thickness and confirm it is greater than four (4) inches. A variety of factors can weaken ice, so remember that thick ice is no guarantee of safe ice. Vegetation weakens ice, so avoid areas where plants protrude through the surface.  The strength and thickness of ice is unlikely to be consistent over a given body of water, especially near inlets and feeder streams. Areas where moving water is normally present will have weaker ice. Just because a pond located in one area of the county is frozen a foot thick does not mean another pond in the area will be as well. Ice strength can change from hour to hour and day to day. Remember, ice that is clear or blue in appearance is the strongest. Ice that is white, gray, or black is of a lower density and should be avoided.  Remember, “Thick and blue, tried and true; Thin and crispy, way too risky.”

If you do fall through the ice, you may only have minutes to save yourself. Get as much of your body as possible out of the water by grabbing onto the surface of the ice. Use your arms and elbows to lift yourself up out of the water. You will have to “swim” the rest of the way out by orienting your body horizontally to the ice as much as possible. Lean forward onto the ice and kick your feet as hard as you can. As you begin to move forward, use your arms and elbows to climb out of the hole. Professional winter hikers carry a pair of ice safety picks in their life jackets and never hike alone!

Make sure your children are “Ice Aware” this January and February. The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office hopes you and your family have a safe and fun winter!