How to protect yourself on frozen ponds and lakes

DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLNS) – As temperatures in mid-Michigan hover below zero our ponds and lakes are frozen over, making way for some fun winter activities like ice skating and ice fishing.

But if people aren’t careful, that fun can turn deadly. According to Delta Township Fire Cheif John Clark, a person only has minutes to save themselves if they fall through the ice.

“You have about, depending on how cold the water is, less than maybe 15 minutes to survive in that before you lose consciousness,” Clark said.

Clark says there are some telltale signs that ice is unsafe. If it looks uneven, has cracks and slush, or is covered in snow it might not be completely frozen.

But you can’t always tell the strenth of ice simply by how it looks, which is why Clark says there are important steps you should take before heading out onto it.

“First rule is never go out on the ice by yourself, always make sure somebody knows you’re going out on the ice,” Clark said. “Really they should have visual or verbal contact with you.”

Clark says you will also want to bring ice picks, wear appropriate footwear and have on a life preserver under your winter coat.

While you should never be on the ice alone, if you ever find yourself in that situation and you fall through the ice, Clark says it’s important to stay calm and act fast.

“You get those ice picks out, go to where the ice was solid, typically in the direction you came from, maybe where you set your shanty up when you came out, get them dug into the ice, kick your feet in the water, and try to pull yourself up from the ice,” Clark said.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises to never drive a truck or car on ice, but if you choose to or have to, it has a few tips.

First, the department says don’t wear your life preserver, just have it with you in the car. Also, take your seatbelt off and keep your windows rolled down for an easy escape if the car falls through the ice.