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Winter Ice Safety Tips To Live By In Lake George

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"Thick and blue, tried and true - Thin and crispy, way too risky."

The Lake George Association

2392 NY-9N, Lake George, NY 12845

Phone: 518-668-3558

Fax: 518-668-4702

The Lake George Association is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization, dedicated to protecting, conserving, and improving the beauty and quality of the Lake George Basin.

snowmobiles on a frozen lake

Safe Ice Versus Unsafe Ice - When On The Ice, Be Smart And Be Safe:

When going out on Lake George for ice fishing, skating, or even snowmobiling, you should prepare yourself as much as possible to avoid going through the ice and having to deal with thin ice. Here are some dos and dont's:

  • Never go out on the ice alone. Go out with another person and keep a good distance apart as you move about. If one of you falls through, the other can attempt to get help. That person can also attempt a rescue.
  • Carry some survival equipment, such as a length of rope. Carry a pair of ice picks or even a pair of screwdrivers tied together with a few feet of strong cord. You can use these to pull yourself up and onto the ice. If they have wooden handles, they will float, which is handy if you drop them in the struggle to get out of the water.
  • Avoid driving on the ice if at all possible. If you must drive onto the ice, unbuckle your seatbelt and roll down the window. That way, if you go through the ice, it will be easier to get out of the vehicle.
  • If snowmobiling at night, don't outdrive your headlight. Give yourself time to spot and avoid open water, pressure ridges, and patches of weak ice.
  • Perhaps more than anything, avoid alcohol. Alcohol increases your chances for hypothermia, impairs your judgment, and slows your reaction time.

Surviving An Icy Plunge Into The Frigid Waters Of Lake George:

Whether you have fallen through thin ice or are trying to rescue someone who has, the most important thing to remember is - you have more time than you think.

What To Do If You Fall Through The Ice:

  1. Try not to panic. Call out for help only if you see someone. Otherwise, save your breath. The cold shock that makes you hyperventilate will subside within 1-3 minutes. The best thing to do is get your breathing under control and keep above water. You are more likely to die from drowning than from hypothermia.
  2. Remove any extraneous objects that will weigh you down (skis, snowmobile helmet, skates, etc.).
  3. Try to get out from the direction that you came in. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice. You will only have 2-5 minutes before you lose the strength to pull yourself out.
  4. Begin kicking your feet to get your body horizontal. Then, pull yourself along the ice until you are out of the hole. Be slow and deliberate to conserve your strength and body heat.
  5. If the ice breaks, move forward and try again.
  6. Once you are lying on the ice, DO NOT stand up. Roll away from the hole, then crawl following your footsteps back toward shore. Don't stand until the hole is well behind you. You want to distribute your weight evenly over a wide area to prevent going through again.
  7. If you can't pull yourself out within 10 minutes from the time that you went in, cease all attempts. At this point, you need to extend the time period in which someone else could rescue you by conserving body heat. The body loses heat much faster in water than it does in air, so get as much of your body out of the water as possible.
  8. Keep your forearms flat and still on the ice. Hopefully, your clothing will freeze to the ice, possibly preventing you from going under, even if you become unconscious.
  9. It is possible to survive for up to 2 hours before succumbing to hypothermia. In other words, if you stay composed and keep above water, you have almost a 2 hour window of opportunity to be rescued.

What To Do If You See Someone Fall Through The Ice:

  1. Keep calm and try to keep the victim calm.
  2. Assess the availability of extra help. If possible, call 911 or look for people in the vicinity.
  3. If you are on the ice, DO NOT run up to the hole. If you are on shore, DO NOT run onto the ice. The last thing you want to do is become a second victim.
  4. Use an item on shore to throw or extend to the victim that will allow you to pull them out of the water (rope, ladder, branch extension cord, skis, jumper cable, etc.). You can also form a human chain with people lying flat on the ice to distribute the weight as evenly as possible.
  5. Once the victim is safely on shore, they may seem to be in relatively good condition. However, a potentially fatal condition called "after drop" can occur soon afterward. Cold blood that has been pooled in the body's extremities starts to circulate again as the body warms up. At this point, the body begins to shiver violently in an attempt to raise the temperature again.
  6. Never rub the victim's arms, hands, legs or feet, as this could cause or exacerbate the "after drop" effects.
  7. Never give the victim alcohol or caffeinated products. They restrict the blood vessels and slow circulation.
  8. If possible, exchange wet clothes for dry clothes, wrap the victim in a blanket and get the victim out of the elements.
  9. Get an ambulance or rescue squad to the scene as fast as possible.

Is The Ice Thick Enough? Better Err On The Side Of Caution:

ice safety infographic

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