Winter recreation advisory: safety is no accident

Cutter crews conduct ice rescue training in the Straits of Mackinac

A Coast Guard crew conducts ice rescue training in the Straits of Mackinac. Coast Guard file photo

CLEVELAND — Proper preparation is vital for people recreating on or near frozen lakes and waterways as ice coverage across the Great Lakes makes a resurgence this week with sustained colder temperatures.

Coast Guard units, working with first responders, have performed more than 40 ice rescue cases since December 2017. Many of the rescues were successful because the survivors were properly prepared prior to going out on the ice.

Proper preparation includes:

Keep it simple. Cold temperatures drain power from electronics dramatically faster than normal. Always bring a magnetic compass, map, and signaling device such as a whistle, flare, or foghorn.

Stick to the plan and stay in place. Always let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you will return. Stick to the plan or notify them when plans change. Search efforts won’t begin until someone realizes you are overdue. Rescuers will search your last known location first. Avoid traveling onto the ice alone, when possible.

Bring the right clothing and equipment. No one expects to fall through the ice. Wear a lifejacket while out on the ice to increase your chances of rescue in case you fall through the ice. Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. An exposure or dry suit can greatly increase your chances of survival if you fall through the ice.

Know how to self-rescue. Carry two ice picks or screwdrivers. These tools can aid in pulling yourself back onto solid ice if you fall through. They are much more effective than hands alone on wet, slippery ice where there is nothing to grip.

Ice is unpredictable and dangerous. Even in a small area, it can significantly range in thickness making people or heavy objects susceptible to falling through. Avoid driving on untested ice. Owners of vehicles left on the ice after a rescue can be subject to civil penalties if their vehicle causes a pollution discharge.

Every minute counts in an ice rescue; your preparation may mean the difference between life and death.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.