Ice Safety: When Slip and Fall Takes On a Whole New Danger

Slipping and falling is never a good thing and can lead to a host of injuries. Slip and fall on the ice, and you can end up entering a whole different situation – one involving cold water and even death. Personal safety while on the ice is vital but also fairly easy.  With a little knowledge and pre-planning, you can literally safe your life.

Whether you find yourself on the ice for pleasure, business or even by accident, tragedy can be no more than a step away. Even in the dead of winter spots of thin ice can occur, and when temperatures spike, even for only a day or two, spots which were solid during your last visit can be a death trap today.  Learning how to avoid bad ice can help you avoid danger.

Good Ice / Bad Ice

No all ice is identical, and not all ice is safe to venture onto. Good ice, that which is solid and more capable of holding external weight, resembles an ice cube. It will be clear when in the thinner stages and take on a darker tint as it thickens. You should not see bubbles (empty air pockets), frosty or flaking layers or seeping water. If you see any of these signs, stay away as the ice has been compromised and is more likely to fail.

ice-cautionEven good ice can be weakened by other items which impede its ability to freeze solid. The most common reason for this happening is a foreign object which gets in the way of the ice as it forms such as branches, dock piers, boulders or even vegetation. Again, you should avoid areas where items such as this are observed or known to occur.  Another frequent reason for ice not forming properly is something many outdoorsmen overlook – running water. Obviously water running over ice can weaken it, but so can running water under the ice. Extra caution should be used when venturing onto any ice near or over running water.

How Much Ice Is Needed?

Another common reason for ice related accidents is misunderstanding how strong, or weak as the case may be, ice actually is. Even the best ice, which is near perfect in appearance, can only hold so much weight.  Here is a simple table to help you decide whether you should go out or not:

Ice Thickness              Recommended Activities

1 to 3 inches                Unsafe STAY OFF

3 to 5 inches                Ice Fishing or skating by small groups

5 to 8 inches                Ice fishing or skating by larger groups; snowmobile or ATV

8-15 inches                  Small pickup or camper

15 + inches                  Full size pickup or other stationary objects

Keep in mind that these thickness figures are based on having good quality ice available. If there is any doubt in the quality of the ice, err on the side of caution and limit you activities. Some creaking and popping is normal when ice moves – it is floating after all – but if there is any indication the ice may be failing, leave immediately!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.


Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

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