Truesdale Lake  

South Salem, New York

Ice Safety

ICE SAFETY (this document is also available as a pdf download here)

Truesdale Lake freezes in the winter and is often perfect for sledding, skating, ice hockey, cross country skiing and just taking a beautiful winter walk. However one must never go out on any frozen body of water without knowing some rules of ice safety. Please discuss these safety tips with your children and guests and emphasize their importance.

Before you go onto the ice:
1. Do not go alone. Always use the buddy system on the ice. Alcohol in your blood is dangerous because it impairs your judgement and increases chilling by bringing blood to the surface of the skin. At night carry a flashlight.
2. Check the thickness (see benchmarks below)
3. Look for the nearest yellow ice rescue ladders.

Surviving an Icy Plunge into the Frigid Waters of Truesdale Lake

Whether you have fallen through thin ice or are trying to rescue someone who has, the most important thing to remember is: you have more time than you think.

What to do if you fall through the ice
Try not to panic. Call out for help only if you see someone. Otherwise, save your breath. The cold shock that makes you hyperventilate will subside within 1-3 minutes. The best thing to do is to get your breathing under control and keep above water. You are more likely to die from drowning than from hypothermia.

Remove any extraneous objects that will weigh you down. (skis, skates, etc.)

Try to get out from the direction that you came in. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice. You will only have 2-5 minutes before you lose the strength to pull yourself out.

Begin kicking your feet to get your body horizontal. Then, pull yourself along the ice until you are out of the hole. Be slow and deliberate to conserve your strength and body heat.

If the ice breaks, move forward and try again.

Once you are lying on the ice, DO NOT stand up. Roll away from the hole, then crawl following your footsteps back toward shore. Don’t stand until the hole is well behind you. You want to distribute your weight evenly over a wide area to prevent going through again.

If you can’t pull yourself out within 10 minutes from the time that you went in, cease all attempts. At this point, you need to extend the time period in which someone else could rescue you by conserving body heat.

The body loses heat much faster in water than it does in air, so get as much of your body out of the water as possible.

Keep your forearms flat and still on the ice. Hopefully, your clothing will freeze to the ice, possibly preventing you from going under, even if you become unconscious.

It is possible to survive for up to 2 hours before succumbing to hypothermia. In other words, if you stay composed and keep above water, you have almost a 2 hour window of opportunity to be rescued.

Do not panic.


What to do if you see someone fall through the ice?

Keep calm and try to keep the victim calm.

Assess the availability of extra help. If possible, call 911 or look for people in the vicinity.

If you are on the ice, DO NOT run up to the hole. If you are on shore, DO NOT run onto the ice. The last thing you want to do is become a second victim. Tell victim you are getting help. (reduces panic).

Use an item on shore to throw or extend to the victim that will allow you to pull them out of the water. (Rope, ladder, branch, extension cord, skis, jumper cable, etc.) You can also form a human chain with people lying flat on the ice to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. NOTE there are ladders with attached ropes located at several locations around Truesdale Lake. Hold on to the rope and push the ladder out toward the victim. Then once they grab it, pull the rope. The ladder will help distribute their weight and thinner ice should hold them up.

If the person can not hold the ladder, get a third person to hold the rope and the rescuer can carefully crawl out the ladder to grab the victim.

Once the victim is safely on shore, they may seem to be in relatively good condition. However, a potentially fatal condition called “after drop” can occur soon afterward. Cold blood that has been pooled in the body’s extremities starts to circulate again as the body warms up. At this point, the body begins to shiver violently in an attempt to raise the core temperature again.

Never rub the victim’s arms, hands, legs or feet, as this could cause or exacerbate the “after drop.”

Never give the victim alcohol or caffeinated products. They restrict the blood vessels and slow circulation.

If possible, exchange wet clothes for dry clothes, wrap the victim in a blanket and get the victim out of the elements.

Get an ambulance or rescue squad to the scene as fast as possible.

Is the ice thick enough? 
Better err on the side of caution (Note ice quality can vary in strength and thickness based on underwater currents, plant growth, water depth, waterfowl activity, and other factors.)

Black (new) ice is much stronger than white (snow or melted and refrozen) ice. Also even if the ice is strong in one place, there could be open water in another part of Truesdale. There have been winters when there was a strip of open water running across the lake all winter even though there was excellent ice skating north and south of it. There is usually open water and or thin ice near the inlets and along much of the eastern shore.

Minimum thickness (inches)....NY.........USACE........NH
1 person on foot ............2-3**.........2*.........4
group (single file)..........3**...........3*.........6
1 car (2 tons)...............7.5...........7.........7.5 (not allowed on Truesdale Lake)
  • number is for black (new) ice; recommends stay off old ice
    ** this site now says 2-3 inches of good clear ice

Sources for ice thickness and ice safety/rescue tips:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysnKtuUTt8k -really worth watching
USACE = U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – http://www.mvp-wc.usace.army.mil/ice/safety.html
NYS DEC – http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7733.html
NH Fish & Game Dept – http://www.wildnh.com/Outdoor_Recreation/ice_safety.html (download pdf)

Thanks to Mark, Barbara, and Alison for putting this information together. (This is a republished and updated article from the old lake website.)