Survival Skills: Avoiding Thin Ice

While Alaska and Europe have been smacked with some severe winter weather this season, much of the United States has thus far enjoyed a milder winter than normal. However, conditions like this give us more reason to be extra cautious when venturing onto the ice before the spring thaw.

This warmer weather has already led to dozens of harrowing ice rescues in the U.S. this year, the worst of which was an eight-person ice rescue in Green Bay, Wis. on Feb. 6.

Fire fighters and rescue personnel from New Hampshire to Michigan have stepped up their ice rescue training in response to the unusually thin ice and larger crowds performing "on ice" activities -- both factors stemming from the warmer than average temps.

With sturgeon spearing and a variety of other fishing events and seasons approaching, here are some ways to keep safe - and to avoid getting out on thin ice, literally.

• Never go out on the ice by yourself.

• Wear a personal flotation device under your winter clothes, unless you are driving on the ice in a vehicle. The excess bulk may keep you from escaping a sinking car -- especially through a window.

• Carry ice picks with you always. Keep them where they would be easy to reach if you end up in the water. Click here to learn how to make a set of Ice Rescue Claws.

• Remember that spring ice is NEVER safe ice.

Never walk or drive on old or cloudy ice -- only go out on clear, thick ice. If the ice is less than two inches -- STAY OFF! Ice thicker than four inches is probably safe for walking and ice fishing on foot. Five inches and thicker is probably safe for ATV or snowmobiling. Ice 8 to 12 inches thick is probably safe for small cars or light pickups. If in doubt, don't try it out.

Let us know how you stay on the right side of the ice by leaving us a comment below.

Photo by psd on Flickr.