Tips for Top Ice Safety

When it comes to our ice IQ, what we don't know about winter can mean the difference between life and death

Generations of New Englanders have heard the same warning - don't go on thin ice. Yet, every winter, we hear of peril, and our first responders are pressed into action.

When it comes to our ice IQ, what we don't know about winter can mean the difference between life and death.

Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Godin and his colleagues of Guilford, New Hampshire's, Fire and Rescue, stress knowledge about ice thickness is crucial:

Godin said, "The general rule of thumb: Anything from 2" or less, don't go on it - completely unsafe. Three-to-four inches is safe for one person to go ice fishing. Four-to-five inches for a snowmobile. Five-to-six is good for a group of people. And eight inches and more is good for any vehicles."

To measure the ice, use an ice auger, drill, chainsaw, or anything else that can safely pierce the ice, measuring every 20-30 yards.

Cracks in the ice, lots of air bubbles, changing ice color including black spots, dark colored ice, and visible water are all signs of weak ice - strong ice has little oxygen in it, and often takes on a blue tinge.

Of course, Godin has a simpler, common sense suggestion, too.

He said, "My personal general rule of thumb is ask an ice fisherman on the pond you're on. They tend to know the ice better than anybody."

If you do run into trouble, the Guilford Fire Department says reach, throw, row, but don't go. Leave it to the professionals, who have the equipment - like an insulated, waterproof Stearns survival suit worn by Guilford's Zach Lobdell, with ice picks, floatation, ropes and carabineers.

For years, New Englanders have known that snowmobiles and thin ice just don't mix, but WISE Technology in New Hampshire has come up with a new device that blends the two to actually save lives.

The Amphibious Ice Rescue, or AIR, Responder turns a snowmobile into a boat, with a hydraulic system to raise and lower the snowmobile track for propulsion of the fiberglass hull over water or cutting through ice, dual power supplies and LED lights for extended night rescues and a rotating trailer mount to make deployment an easy, two-person operation.

WISE Technology President, Roger Bailey, explained the inspiration behind his brainchild.

He said, "I've watched too many videos and stuff of firefighters putting their lives on the line trying to rescue human beings, animals, whatever, sometimes in really crazy situations where it's just you're waiting for the firefighter to be the next victim. This completely eliminates that as a possibility."

Ease of use was big focal point in designing the AIR Responder, and its design works well in changing New England conditions:

Bailey added, "Very easy to deploy, and you can handle any surface conditions, so you can go over open water like we see here, we can go on solid ice and we can go on anything in between."

The AIR Responder is currently in a private fundraising stage online, but represents a big improvement in ice rescue capability in New England, working with our first responders to take all that we do know about winter, and use it to save lives.

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