Safety on Ice


In the state of Minnesota alone, on average four people per year die due to falling through ice on frozen ponds or lakes. These deaths have not been directly related to organizations that we insure, but if your facility is located near frozen ponds or uses them for activities, please observe the following:

Communicate and enforce the following safety rules to both children and adults

  • Always tell someone where you are going…an adult should always know where you will be.
  • Never be alone on the ice…always have a buddy within 10 yards of you. If you fall through the ice your buddy is there to either rescue you or to go for assistance.
  • Never allow fires on the ice…bonfires on the ice should be prohibited. A fire will weaken the ice and creates a danger to anyone on the ice.
  • Never drive on the ice…although the ice may support the weight of a vehicle, vehicles should be left on solid ground. A vehicle should not be used to plow the ice as it may weaken the ice even if it does not actually break it.
  • Never go onto questionable ice…if uncertain contact your local authorities. If someone must go onto questionable ice, they should never do so alone and they should always wear a lifejacket. It will keep them afloat and provide them with protection from hypothermia.

Locate a safe area for use

  • The recommended minimum thickness of ice for safe activity is 6 inches. You can determine ice thickness by drilling holes in separated areas around the pond or lake. Avoid activity around partially submerged objects such as trees, logs, embankments, or dams as the ice is usually not as thick in these areas. Also avoid cracks, slushy areas, or darker areas that signify thinner ice.

Designate the area to be used

  • The area to be used should be clearly delineated by cones, snow banks, or barriers that distinctly indicate the portion of the ice to be used in the activity. Warning signs should be posted if there are areas of weak or questionable ice. Night activities require the provision of adequate lighting.

What to do if you do fall in

  • Don’t panic
  • Try to stay afloat and pull yourself back out onto the ice in the directions you came
    • bend your elbows and lay them flat on the ice
    • kick with your feet and pull yourself back onto the surface of the ice with your arms
  • Once on the ice lay flat and roll away from the broken ice.
  • Don’t stand up until you have moved onto the ground or an area of solid ice

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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