Ice safety

DCEM PhotoIce forming on Big Spirit Lake in December 2017.DCEM Photo

Each fall the temperature drops and our lakes and rivers become covered in ice. Please take a moment before you venture onto the ice to review these ice safety tips courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Ice Safety Tips

Dickinson County Emergency ManagementDickinson County Emergency ManagementWhen is ice safe? The truth is that ice is never 100 percent safe. Take these steps to minimize risk when choosing to recreate on frozen bodies of water:

Some Cold Facts About Ice

Preach, Reach, Throw, Row, Go!

To rescue someone from the ice or water, follow these five steps:

PREACH - Call 911 if you have a cell phone, or if others are present have them call. Shout to the victim to encourage them to fight to survive and reassure them that help is on the way.

REACH - If you can safely reach the victim from shore, extend an object such as a rope, ladder or jumper cables to the victim. If the person starts to pull you in, release your grip on the object and start over.

THROW - Toss one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim. Have them tie the rope around themselves before they are too weakened by the cold to grasp it.

ROW - Find a lightweight boat to push across the ice ahead of you. Push it to the edge of the hole, get into the boat and pull the victim in over the bow. If possible, attach some rope to the boat so others can help pull you and the victim to safety.

GO - A non-professional shouldn’t go out on the ice to perform a rescue unless all other basic rescue techniques have been ruled out. Resist the urge to run up to the edge of the hole, as this will most likely lead to two victims in the water.

Be a Survivor!

You must fight to survive in cold water. Commit this action plan to memory before hitting the ice:

  1. Don't panic! The shock of cold water can cause you to inhale water and/or hyperventilate. Get your breathing under control.
  2. Don’t remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won’t drag you down, but instead can trap air to provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.
  3. Turn toward the direction you came from. That’s probably the strongest ice. Assess the situation, call out for help.
  4. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. Use your ice picks, a pair of nails or sharpened screwdrivers to get the extra traction needed to pull yourself up onto the ice.
  5. Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto the solid ice. If your clothes are soaked with water, you may have to lift yourself partially out of the water on your elbows to let the water drain before starting forward.
  6. Lie flat on the ice once you're out and roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out. This may help prevent you from breaking through again.
  7. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and re-warm yourself immediately. In moderate to severe cases of cold water hypothermia, you must seek medical attention. Cold blood trapped in your extremities can rush back to your heart after you begin to warm up. The shock of the chilled blood may cause ventricular fibrillation leading to a heart attack and death.

Driving on Ice?

Dickinson County Sheriff's OfficeThis truck broke through the ice on West Lake Okoboji in January of 2016.Dickinson County Sheriff's OfficeDon’t drive on the ice if you can possibly avoid it. If you must, follow these safety tips:

Vehicle Escape

If your car or truck breaks through the ice:


Information on this page borrowed from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.