From Casey Snyder, Fire Chief, Gwinnett Fire and Rescue Services
The onset of prolonged below-freezing temperatures can cause lakes, ponds, creeks and ditches, to freeze over and form a thin sheet of ice across the surface area.
Firefighters advise people to stay off the ice since the ice is thin and extremely unstable. Water seldom freezes uniformly, thus posing an extreme danger to anyone attempting to stand or walk on the ice.
Ice may freeze to almost a few inches thick in one location (rarely the case in southern states) and be only a few centimeters thick a foot or two away. It can look inviting, but firefighters warn against using the frozen surface as a skating rink or a place to play. Doing so endangers the lives of emergency responders and those who are potentially in need of rescue.
“The thickness of ice that forms on bodies of water within the county is not strong enough to hold the weight of an adult, child or even large animals,” said Gwinnett Fire Captain Tommy Rutledge.
If you do fall through a frozen body of water; remember to stay calm, reach for solid ice, kick to exit the hole, and then roll to safety toward the shore. Never attempt to go out on the ice to rescue another person in distress. Try to reach the victim using a long pole or a throw rope and stay safely on the shore. Be prepared to treat the person for hypothermia or shock and seek medical attention right away.
Stay safe and enjoy the winter weather season by following a few simple rules:
- Avoid playing, skating, or driving over any frozen body of water. This includes lakes, ponds, creeks, and ditches. Remember that only the surface area is frozen, and the ice is extremely thin. It will not be thick enough to hold the weight of an adult, child, or large animals.
- If you have an open body of water on your property, keep an eye out for children who may be adventurist. Post warnings around the area and provide an access barrier whenever possible.
- Dress in layers of warm insulated clothing and limit your time out in the cold weather.
- Monitor weather and road conditions before going out for the day and notify family and friends of your plans.
- Use home heating appliances in a safe manner. Remember to extinguish the fire in the fireplace and turn off space heaters before going to bed or when you leave the house.
- Install and maintain working smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide alarm inside the home. Develop a home escape plan and hold fire drills to practice.