How thick should ice be for you to be on it?

By Alicia Nieves

January 5, 2014 Updated Jan 6, 2014 at 12:59 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) With some local lakes frozen over, activities like ice fishing and ice skating have increased.

Although these activities can be fun, they can also be very dangerous.

Every winter the local fire departments and the Broome County Water Rescue Dive Response Team respond to a number of incidents regarding people falling through the ice.

"Around here, six to a dozen typically for ice," said Fire Chief Dave Thomas, in response to the number of people they rescue each season.

Thomas is not only a Fire Chief for the West Corners Fire Department, but he is also an officer in the Broome County Water Rescue Dive Response Team.

He said it is important to know when it is safe to go on the ice, and what to look for.

"The first precaution is experience, you need to know the area well and you need to know how fast ice grows in that area,” Thomas added.

But even if you know the area and believe a lake or pond is frozen, you should always test it first.

"The best way to test the ice is to drill a hole and measure how thick the ice is," Thomas said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, you should stay off the ice that is less than two inches thick, you can ice fish on ice four inches thick, and you can snowmobile or ride an ATV on ice that is five inches thick or more.

The consequences of going on ice too thin or untested, are risky.

If someone falls through the ice, “They’ll go unconscious within minutes depending on their health, age, and fitness, so you have to react fairly quickly,” Thomas said.

A person can freeze and drown within minutes, and that could tempt others to try and go after the person who is drowning - especially a parent.

"Your first instinct is to go out and get your child from the ice,” said Tracy Slavitsky of Binghamton.

Thomas said that's the worst thing to do, because often times the person who is trying to help will fall in the ice too.

Thomas said the best thing to do is call 911 immediately, and always carry some rope. From a safe distance away, you may be able to pull the person to safety.

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