INDIANAPOLIS — Officials want to remind Hoosiers that no ice should be considered “safe ice” and that everyone should stay off of frozen waterways this winter.
“We’ve had a pretty mild winter up until this point and so we are starting to see ice on some of the ponds. But one of the steadfast rules we have here in Indiana is there is no safe ice,” said Kevin Jones, Special Operations Chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department.
On Sunday night shortly after 5:30 p.m., the Pike Township Fire Department and Indianapolis Fire Department responded to the Eagle Creek Reservoir off of West 56th Street after a passerby called for help.
According to crews on scene, a person said they saw children playing on the ice and believed that someone may have fallen through. Officials found an article of clothing nearby and did a search of the area and were able to determine that fortunately, nobody was in the water.
“We would rather have people call us if they’re concerned or if they think there’s people trapped or in danger. That’s what the fire department’s here for,” said Jones.
Still, fire officials want to encourage Hoosiers to heed the warning that you can’t trust any ice in Indiana, especially with the fluctuating temperatures.
“The message that we want to make sure that everybody hears is that no matter what that ice looks like, you can’t trust it,” said Jones. “There’s times where through the thawing process there’s air under the ice, where the ice stays high and the water’s dropped, you know, that doesn’t support any weight whatsoever.”
Officials remind that looks can be deceiving. Ice may appear thick enough to support a person, but that doesn’t mean it is.
“Just looking at the ice, you can’t trust it,” said Jones. “Find other alternatives for your recreation. There’s plenty of facilities and opportunities for people to go out and do this skating in a safe environment and not put themselves in danger.”
Depending on the size of an individual, it could take just minutes for hypothermia to set in, limiting your ability to rescue yourself, or even yell for help.
“Even the fittest person, being put in those frigid water with those frigid temperatures, the way your body is going to react, it’s going to limit your performance. It’s gonna affect you and your ability to self-rescue or even call for the help. So unfortunately a lot of times, the people that we see playing on the ice are little kids, so they have smaller bodies, less body mass, the temperatures are going to hit them even quicker,” Jones explained.
“Don’t think that you’re immune to the ice because the elements are going to affect everybody the same. You’re going to get in the water, you’re gonna start losing your function, you put yourself in danger,” he added.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources shared a reminder for Hoosiers to always assume you are on “thin ice.” The Indiana DNR said although every year people do safely skate, fish, or even just slide around on frozen ponds and lakes, there are also others who drown after falling through ice.
This is why IFD and other area agencies do extensive yearly training to prepare for ice rescue situations.
Jones said one part of their training includes educational training in the classroom to learn about the hazards of ice, identifying types of ice, and techniques for going out and making contact with a potential victim and how to bring them back in safely.
“So we have thermal suits because that’s the biggest thing in the winter is, that water – when you hit that frigid water, it doesn’t take long for your hands to start cramping up and to lose your function, so to find those victims on the edge of the ice block trying to hold on, time is of an essence,” said Jones.
Another part of the training IFD goes through is to conduct ice rescue training, where first responders will go over how to make the rescue and break down how to approach a victim from behind, without putting them in a more difficult situation where they have no ice to support themselves. When the elements allow for it, IFD also conducts ice dive training.
“That’s why we review those because there is that chance that somebody goes under the ice and we have to make that rescue,” said Jones.
A joint ice dive training is planned in several weeks alongside multiple area agencies, Jones said.
Although it understandable that bystanders may want to help, you don’t want to become a victim too, so should you see someone fall through ice into water, the number one thing you should do is immediately call 911 and get help on the way.
Officials said you should look for an item like a rope or flotation device and try to reach them with that until first responders arrive.
Other tips for staying safe around ice can be found here on Indiana DNR’s website.