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Fire and Rescue Experts Warn: Stay Off the Ice

Don't be tempted to skate, fish or walk on frozen ponds or coves. Ice in the Baltimore region is too unstable and unsafe, fire and rescue experts say.

"The only safe place to skate is at an ice rink," says FireThe Advanced Tactical Rescue Team, housed at Texas Station 17, practices ice rescue tactics. Chief John J. Hohman. "Even relatively thick ice on natural bodies of water is often unstable. You risk disaster when you venture out on it."

Ice on Maryland waterways rarely freezes evenly and solidly for a variety of reasons, including temperature fluctuations beneath the surface and the presence of contaminants in the water, which can prevent freezing.

Without special equipment, human beings who fall into water with sub-freezing temperatures will survive only about 15 minutes, county water rescue experts say.

Wear a life jacket, if you must be on a boat on the water.

Do not venture onto the ice to rescue a pet.

If you are with someone who falls through the ice, do not go on the ice to help him! Instead:

  • Call 911 as soon as possible.
  • Mark the spot with a hat or a piece of clothing, so that if the victim becomes submerged rescuers have a point of reference. Time is of the essence with this sort of rescue.
  • Then, reach, throw and row. If the victim is near enough to shore to reach a ladder, tree branch or pole, extend one of these toward him as quickly as possible and pull him to safety. Throw him a rope or a flotation device, if possible. Row toward him, if the water is clear and you have access to a boat. Again, do not leave the shore and venture into the water or onto the ice unless you have special water rescue training.
  • If the victim can crawl out of the water and onto the ice, have him roll away from the crack and crawl on his belly to shore. Staying low distributes the body's weight on the ice and helps reduce the risk of the ice cracking.

Revised March 8, 2016

Revised April 6, 2016         


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