READYColorado Blog: Frozen Pond and Lake Safety

Each winter, after the ice forms on Colorado’s waters, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy ice fishing, ice skating and other fun winter sports.  Before going out onto a frozen lake, pond or river, it is important to take safety precautions to reduce the risk of falling through the ice.  Knowing how to judge ice conditions will also help you make more informed decisions while enjoying winter.

​​​​​​​​Ice Safety Tips from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife

  • Never go onto the ice alone. Keep a buddy close by so that they can call for help if you fall in. Also, never attempt to walk out onto the ice to rescue someone; you might also fall through the ice.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol increases the likelihood of hypothermia, which is the loss of body temperature.
  • Always wear a life jacket.  Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over winter clothing. Life jackets provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia.
  • Assemble a personal safety kit including an ice pick, a rope, and a whistle to call for help. Always wear the safety kit on your body when going out onto the ice.  
  • Always keep pets on a leash.  Never allow your dog to run out onto the ice and never walk your dog near a frozen lake or pond without a leash. If your dog falls through the ice, do not attempt a rescue. Go for help.
  • Reach-Throw-Go.  If you cannot reach the person from shore, throw them a flotation device or a rope. If you still can't help the person quickly, go for help.

What to do if you Fall Through the Ice

If you cannot get out of the cold water by yourself, take appropriate actions to extend your survival time while waiting to be rescued.

  • Do not panic. Try to remain calm to conserve as much energy as possible. Try to get your arms onto the ice and kick as hard as you can with your feet to help lift you onto the ice, and then roll to safety. If you can't get out of the cold water by yourself, take appropriate actions to extend your survival time while waiting to be rescued.
  • Do not swim. Swimming will cause your body to lose heat much faster than if you stay as still as possible.
  • Act slowly and deliberately to conserve heat. Expect a progressive decrease in your strength and ability to move. Make the harder maneuvers at the beginning, while you can.
  • Keep your upper body above water. Keep your head and upper body as far out of the water as reasonably possible to conserve body heat. 
  • Visit the Colorado Parks and Wildfire website for survival and preparedness tips before you enjoy the Colorado outdoors.