COLUMBIA — Each year, an estimated 7,000 people drown in the U.S. and 20,000 more come close, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Over half of those incidents occur in water 70 degrees or colder.
With wintry weather on its way and ponds, lakes and streams beginning to freeze over, the Boone County Fire Protection District provided ice safety tips for activities such as ice fishing and advice on how to handle an accidental fall through the ice.
According to a news release from the Fire District, no ice is safe, river ice in particular, especially during strong winds or when snow covers the ice. Generally, no ice in mid-Missouri reaches the thickness safety standard of 8 to 10 inches.
When attempting to walk onto ice:
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device over regular winter clothing.
- Bring a safety kit with you. The Fire District recommends including the following items: a lighter, waterproof matches, a magnesium fire starter, a pocketknife, a compass, a whistle, ice picks, long nails, a rope and a cell phone.
- Keep pets on leashes.
When ice fishing:
- Be sure to drill test holes to judge the thickness and quality of the ice.
- Pay special attention to ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, logs or dams, and ice with cracks, seams, slushy areas and dark areas.
If you fall through the ice:
- Stay calm.
- Do not try to swim.
- Use a whistle to attract help.
- Use ice picks or long nails to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.
When you get out of the water:
- Do not stand up.
- Pull yourself forward with your arms while laying flat on your stomach, or roll back slowly in the direction from which you came.
The Fire District advises against trying to rescue a person or pet who has fallen through ice unless they can be helped from a distance with a rope or other long object. According to the Fire District, two-thirds of all drowning fatalities are "would-be" rescuers. People should call 911 immediately for ice emergencies.