State Officials Remind Public of the Dangers of Walking on Ice Covered Water Bodies

BOSTON, MA — State officials are warning the public of the dangers associated with walking on ice over bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, streams, reservoirs, and rivers. Public safety and recreation officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Massachusetts State Police (MSP), the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and the Department of Fire Services (DFS) ask that residents and guests remain conscious of the risks associated with walking on ice, particularly over rivers, such as the Charles River, Neponset River, and the Connecticut River, due to their water currents and changing depths that make ice dangerously unstable.

The winter season offers unique outdoor recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy, including ice fishing, ice skating, and snowmobiling; unfortunately, every year state and local officials receive and respond to reports of individuals falling through thin ice. In a short period of time, an individual who falls into icy waters can experience hypothermia like symptoms, which can become fatal if not treated immediately. Hypothermia symptoms include shivering, dizziness, hunger, nausea, accelerated breathing, difficulty speaking, lack of coordination, fatigue, and an increase in heart rate.

Ice safety tips that everyone should follow when near bodies of water during the winter months include:

  • Parents should always closely watch and supervise their children.
  • Never go onto ice alone.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash (if a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt a rescue—call for help).
  • Beware of ice covered with snow. Snow can insulate ice and keep it from freezing. It can also hide cracks as well as other weak spots.
  • Ice formed over flowing water (including springs under the surface) is generally weaker than ice over still water.
  • Ice seldom freezes or thaws at a uniform rate. It can be a foot thick in one spot or an inch thick in another.
  • If a companion falls through the ice and you are unable to reach that person from shore, throw something to them (a rope, tree branch, even jumper cables from a car, etc.). If this does not work, go or phone for help. Get medical assistance for the victim immediately.
  • If you fall in, try not to panic. Turn toward the direction you came from, and place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, working forward by kicking your feet. Once the ice is solid enough to hold you, and you can pull yourself out, remain lying on the ice (do not stand; lying down spreads your weight across a wider area, lessening your weight on any one spot) and roll away from the hole. Crawl back the way you came, keeping your weight distributed, until you return to solid ice or ground.
  • As the season progresses, plan accordingly and use caution, as the conditions of older ice greatly varies and is subject to rapid changes.

For further information regarding ice and winter safety tips, please visit the DFS and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) websites. The Massachusetts State Police reminds individuals to call 911 in the event of an emergency, such as an individual falling through thin ice. Additionally, several state parks and facilities provide outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the winter season, some of which have DCR rangers and/or staff facilitating many programs. Please visit the DCR’s website for details.

(NOTE: The above press release is from MEMA. Cover photo is from Jamie Boudreau of Airgoz Aerial Photography.)

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