The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is urging Ohioans to use caution this winter when they are out on frozen water. Citizens should be prepared in case they happen to fall through the ice. As temperatures drop, more and more people will be out, attempting to ice fish, skate, and take part in other activities. Below you'll find some tips for handling emergencies and overall preparedness.
- Keep in mind that ice-covered water is NEVER safe.
- If you want to learn to ice fish or you are new to the sport, find a licensed guide. You can call the ODNR Division of Wildlife at 419-625-8062 or visit WildOhio.com to get a list of certified guides. Also, ask local bait shops about any known spots with dangerous ice in the area where you will be fishing.
- Never go out alone and always let someone know when you will be on the ice and when you will be returning. Always take your mobile phone wrapped in plastic.
- Make sure your life jacket or float coat is Coast Guard approved. Not only does it provide you with flotation, but it can also help protect against hypothermia.
- If you want to go sledding or ice skating, the local stream may not be the safest place but there are tons of alternatives. Check with your local metro park district to see where conditions are good for these activities. Some state parks even offer free access to designated skating areas. These include Delaware State Park in Delaware County and Dillon State Park in Muskingum County.
- Understand wind chill. Just because a thermometer reads one temperature, doesn't mean you should take it literally. The wind chill can cause your body to lose heat as though the temperatures are much lower.
- Keep two ice picks, screwdrivers or large nails with you. They will create leverage for pulling yourself out of the water and work better than your bare hands. It may also help to carry a whistle or noisemaker with you so that you may alert people when you are distressed.
- Dress in layers, paying closest attention to your head, neck, sides, and groin. These are the primary areas for heat-loss. Wool and modern synthetics work better than cotton which is slow to dry.
- Also, make sure you keep an extra set of clothing in your car or a safe, dry area.
- Avoid alcohol. Not only does it reduce your reaction time, but it lowers your internal body temperature and makes you more susceptible to hypothermia.
- Do not drive your car, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or any other vehicle onto the ice. This is extremely dangerous and most insurance policies won't cover vehicles that drop through ice.
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