How to Survive Falling through the Ice

You can survive a plunge through thin ice – if you don’t panic.

You will need

  • A long
  • sturdy pole or stick
  • Deep breathing
  • Steady nerves

Step 1 Test the ice Never venture across a frozen body of water without first testing the ice with an ice spud, auger, or drill. Two inches can support one person; four inches are needed for two people; and five inches of solid ice are required to support a snowmobile or other off-road vehicle. Ice is generally thickest near the shore.

Step 2 Look for a stick Look for a long, sturdy pole or stick to hang onto before crossing; that way, if the ice does give way, it may prevent you from falling all the way in.

Step 3 Crawl across frozen water Crawl across frozen water on all fours so that your weight is distributed. Ice thickness can vary from spot to spot.

Step 4 Grip the pole If you feel the ice beneath you cracking, grip the pole tightly–or spread your arms straight out if you have no pole–to break your fall and keep your torso above the water.

Step 5 Steady your breathing Spend a moment getting your breathing under control.

Step 6 Kick and pull With your arms on the ice, start kicking your legs until your body is nearly horizontal with the surface. Then slither your body onto the ice, in the direction you came from.

Step 7 Roll and crawl Roll yourself away from the hole, and crawl back to shore on your stomach.

Step 8 Stick to the ice If you can’t get out within 10 minutes, hypothermia may set in and make moving your legs impossible. In that case, put your wet arms on the ice so they freeze there and prevent you from going under. And start yelling for help.

Step 9 Thaw out Once you’re out of the water, get out of your wet clothes as soon as possible and sip warm — not hot — nonalcoholic liquids. Then get to a hospital for an evaluation; hypothermia can cause dangerous aftereffects that aren’t always immediately apparent.