Ice Safety Reminders

Thursday, January 7, 2010 - 4:50am

Yesterday's simultaneous ice rescue calls are timely reminders of the dangers people face when venturing onto ice-covered bodies of water. Many people enjoy ice fishing, skating, and other winter activities on the frozen surface of lakes and ponds. Participating in these activities can be made safer by following some ice safety tips provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:

• Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions on the lake or river you want to fish.
• Do not go out alone, carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you'll return home.
• Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a float coat to help you stay afloat and to help slow body heat loss; take extra mittens or gloves so you always have a dry pair.
• Wear creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
• Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
• Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself - or others - out of the ice.
• Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.
• Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have current that can thin the ice.
• Look for clear ice. Clear ice is generally stronger than ice with air bubbles in it or with snow on it.
• Watch out for pressure ridges or ice heaves. These can be dangerous due to thin ice and open water and may be an obstruction you may hit with a car, truck or snowmobile.

Shortly after 3:00 PM on Wednesday, the Madison Fire Department Lake Rescue Team pulled a man from the water near Picnic Point on Lake Mendota. Paramedics treated him for cold exposure and transported him to UW Hospital. While this rescue effort was underway, a second unrelated call was received for a man who had fallen through the ice near the Memorial Union, also on Lake Mendota. The second man pulled himself out of the water and was awaiting rescuers in the warmth of the Memorial Union. He was treated by paramedics and transported to Meriter Hospital.

The Madison Fire Department Lake Rescue Team is trained and equipped for water rescue calls above and below the water's surface. Rescue divers provide year-round, emergency response to water rescue calls in the Madison area. In the winter, these responses often involve thin, dangerous ice and very cold temperatures. Rescue divers utilize ice rescue suits and equipment that provide flotation and protection from the frigid water. An ice sled is often used by the rescuers to safely travel onto the ice and rescue victims from the cold water. Information on the Rescue Alive Platform used by the lake rescue team can be found on the manufacturer's Web site:


  • Eric Dahl608-279-7148