FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, March 6, 2015

        DCA Division f Fire Safety Issues Ice Safety Precautions in Advance of Anticipated Thaw


TRENTON, NJ - The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Division of Fire Safety cautions citizens during this frigid record breaking winter, about the potential dangers and hazards of ice.

"We simply would like the public to realize that any unsupervised or unauthorized ice activity is extremely risky," said William Kramer, Jr. Acting Director and State Fire Marshal. "Venturing onto ice that is unsafe not only endangers your life, but invariably and unnecessarily exposes first responders to the risks as well."

Kramer notes that ice rescues are common for career and volunteer fire departments, who though equipped to handle those situations, would preferably have people avoid activities around unsafe ice.

He adds that carelessness and negligence can lead to deadly consequences when venturing out to the local frozen lake, river or bay. There are some general ice safety rules everyone should know:

  • Ice strength is determined by several factors, thickness, external temperatures, snow cover, water depth under the ice, the body of water’s area coverage and the water’s chemical composition, particularly whether it’s fresh or saltwater.
  • Snow on ice acts as an insulator, warming and weakening the ice.
  • Extreme cold weakens ice.
  • The weakest ice is in the center and along the edges.
  • Wet cracks and dark slushy areas are generally fragile.
  • Snowfall can easily cover and hide open areas.
  • Iced water streams are far more dangerous than ice over lakes and ponds.
  • Iced over bays are unstable and subject to tidal movement occurring beneath the surface.

Avoiding unsafe ice is ideal; however, it is easy to inadvertently wander into dangerous territory. Here are some useful tips should the ice collapse beneath you:

  • Carry ice picks with retractable pinions along with a whistle. A pair of handheld ice picks with retractable pinions reduces the danger of being hurt if you should fall on hard ground but can be available to as a way to "claw" your way away from the break. A whistle effectively conveys a call for help.
  • Stay calm.
  • Never stand. Stay prone. Crawl. Slide. Roll and gradually "claw" your way toward shore following your initial path before you fell.

It’s possible that you could witness someone falling through ice. Here are procedures to follow:

  • Stay calm.
  • If you are able, call 911.
  • DO NOT move toward the victim.
  • Use anything to reach the victim from a safe distance, rope, car jumper cables, a tree branch or a flotation device.

Be aware of potential hypothermia. If any of the following symptoms appear, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person's heat regulation systems are still active.)
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Drowsiness or exhaustion
  • Slurred or mumbled speech
  • Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
  • A slow, weak pulse
  • In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse.

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs.