The Maine Warden Service is urging Mainers to use caution when going out on the ice, after several people have fallen through.

It seems like we're well into winter, but the truth is, we're just getting started. It's early in the season and, although a recent cold snap did cover many lakes and ponds in ice, the subsequent warming temperatures made it unstable. There have been a few instances lately of people falling through the ice, including a 6-year-old in Scarborough who was saved by a neighbor. So far, there haven't been any serious injuries, but each accident could have been a lot worse. So, the warden service is offering some important safety tips:

  • Check the thickness of the ice. Never guess at it. And do it repeatedly, as you cross the ice, making test holes with an auger or some other means. Just because the ice is thick on the edges doesn't mean it's equally thick in the center of the waterway.
  • Have a partner with you so, if you do have a problem, someone is there to help you. If you must go out alone, wear a life jacket.
  • If the ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Be alert to signs of thin, clear, or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and dark ice are also signs of weak spots.
  • Avoid areas with currents, like around bridges and pressure ridges. Wind and currents can break ice.
  • Parents should alert their children of unsafe ice in their area, and make sure they stay off the ice. If they want to go ice skating, take them to an indoor or municipal skating rink.

And, in the event that you do break through the ice, Wardens offer the following tips:

  • First and foremost, don't panic.
  • Don't try to climb out immediately because you'll probably break the ice again. Reach for solid ice.
  • Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. Once on the ice, wardens say you should roll, never walk, to safety.
  • Finally, if someone else has fallen through the ice, lie down flat and reach with a branch, plank, or rope, or form a human chain. Don't stand. After securing the victim, wiggle backwards to the solid ice.

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