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Want to enjoy a walk on the ice? Here are 8 tips to keep you safe

An icy pond in Massachusetts. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An icy pond in Massachusetts. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

It's freezing outside, there's snow in the forecast and that river sure does look frozen. Is it safe to venture out on the ice?

You'll have to test it yourself.  While snow signals low temperatures, neither a shiver nor a number is enough to confirm if the cold created ice strong enough to stand — let alone skate — on.

Jim Legacy with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said there are no central resources that can tell you definitively if any pond or lake is safe.

Though the agency does produce ice safety resources, it remains up to each person to know the signs of an icy good (or bad) time.

"You've got to be your own advocate for safety," Legacy said.

Here are ways to venture onto the ice as safely as possible: 

    1. Use a chisel to drill through the ice close to shore to measure the depth. The ice's color plays a part in this, too:
      • 2 inches or less: STAY OFF!
      • 4 inches if the ice is black or blue
      • 5-6 inches if the ice is white with snow mixed in


    2. Factor in the type of activity you're planning. The tip above holds for anything done on foot, but the rule of thumb changes once you introduce a vehicle into the mix:

      • 4 inches: Ice fishing or other activities on foot
      • 5 inches: Snowmobile or ATV
      • 8-12 inches: Car or small pickup truck
      • 12-15 inches: Medium truck


    3. Know the age of the ice. New ice is stronger.

    4. Avoid ice formed over flowing water or anything with a current.

    5. Pack your jacket with the emergency essentials: cell phone, ice picks, rope.

    6. Have a plan in case you do fall in:

      • Stay close to the surface by kicking your legs.
      • Keep your winter clothes on to stay warm.
      • Move in the direction you had just walked from. That ice is likely solid.
      • Find solid, unbroken ice and — if you have them — use the ice pick and rope to bore a hole through the surface and pull yourself out.
      • Lie flat and roll horizontally once you resurface. This avoids disturbing the surrounding ice.


    7. Don't go after a person (or pet!) if you can't safely reach them with a rope or other extension. Call 911 and cry for help.

    8. Finally, remember, there is no guarantee that ice is safe. Check the conditions frequently and err on the side of keeping off if you're not sure.

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