Fire chief: Stay off frozen bodies of water

 

With the temperatures dropping to near and below zero degrees more and more as of late, Shelton fire Chief Fran Jones said there are some things people can do to make sure they’re as safe as possible.

Every year as the temperatures drop to a more constant low, people make their way onto frozen bodies of water to skate or play, despite the risks involved.

Jones and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the tradition of skating and playing on bodies of frozen water during the winter isn’t safe.

The city’s fire chief said he’s aware that people will probably never stop stepping out onto the ice, but there are some factors to consider before they do.

According to the DEEP website, you cannot judge the strength of ice by its appearance, age, or thickness, or by air temperature. Factors such as water depth, the size of the water body, chemistry, currents, and local weather conditions all impact the ice’s strength.

Jones said he personally has referenced a chart created by the DEEP that states new ice is typically stronger than older ice and any ice less than four inches thick is not strong enough to hold the weight of a human.

“There’s no real way to determine the ice’s strength just by looking at it, which makes it even more dangerous,” said Jones.

The DEEP says determining ice’s strength is extremely difficult because its thickness can vary over a single body of water. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two a few feet away.

In the worst-case scenario, when a person falls through the ice, Jones said, he and his team are prepared.

“If animals or people go through the ice, we make sure each fire department has cold-water immersion suits that enable them to go in the water without being put at risk of getting hypothermia,” said Jones. “Yearly we provide the proper training to our members and teach them how to use the water rescue equipment.”

Jones added that it’s important for people to fight the urge to try to save people themselves and venture onto potentially unsafe ice.

“Unless you can reach them with a rope or are able to pull them back without having to step on to the ice yourself, call us,” said Jones.

If you or someone you know were to fall through ice, the DEEP advises you to do the following: Try not to panic, don’t remove your clothing, place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, kick your legs and work your way back onto the solid ice, and if you’re able to make it back onto the ice, lie flat and roll away.

For more information on how to properly assess the strength of ice or what to do should you fall through a frozen surface, visit http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2707&Q=599908&deepNav_GID=1642.

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