USCG reminds Great Lakes to be safe when recreating on the ice during mild temps

CLEVELAND – The Ninth Coast Guard District would like to remind the Great Lakes public to take charge of their safety this ice fishing season as temperatures remain mild throughout the Great Lakes.

Nearly one year ago, Feb. 6, 2009, Federal, state and local response agencies assisted 134 ice fishermen from an ice floe near Oak Harbor, Ohio. On Tuesday, approximately 50 ice fishermen were stranded on an ice floe, in Saginaw Bay, Mich., after strong west winds widened existing cracks in the ice. The stranded fishermen were able to walk safely back to shore after the ice contracted.

Unfortunately, there were seven deaths reported in the Great Lakes Region, this weekend, that resulted from ice-related mishaps.

These incidents may have been preventable, and the U.S. Coast Guard would like to remind the public that ice is an ever-changing surface and the fluctuating weather conditions greatly affect the ice’s stability.

In an effort to prevent, prepare and educate recreational ice fisherman, the Coast Guard would like to encouraged people to remember the following:

I – Intelligence – check the weather and ice conditions, know where you are going and know how to call for help/assistance.

C – Clothing – wear the proper anti-exposure clothes with multiple layers. If possible, wear a dry suit to prevent hypothermia, which can occur within minutes after falling through the ice.

E – Equipment – have the proper equipment such as a marine band radio, life jackets and screw drivers.

Recreational ice fisherman are encouraged to:

  • Use the buddy system: NEVER go out on the ice alone.
  • Dress in bright colors; and wear an anti-exposure suit that is waterproof, including a personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Carry two ice picks or screwdrivers for self-rescue. They are much more effective than using your hands.
  • Carry a whistle or noise-making device to alert people that you are in distress such as a cell phone or a VHF-FM radio.
  • Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges and slushy areas, which signify thinner ice.

Because Great Lakes ice is dangerous and unpredictable, the threat of hypothermia is always present with a potential fall through the ice. Hypothermia begins to set in quickly as the human body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 C).

To treat hypothermia, handle the victim gently, get them indoors and remove clothing, then dry the victim promptly and wrap in blankets. Lastly, transfer the victim to rescue and/or medical authorities immediately.

However, AVOID the following actions with hypothermia:

  • NEVER rub or massage the extremities
  • NEVER give alcohol or caffeinated products
  • NEVER apply ice
  • NEVER apply external heat sources directly to the skin
  • NEVER allow the person to smoke

The Coast Guard would like everyone to take an active part to enhance their chances for rescue and survival with a commitment to safety this year and beyond.

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