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On thin ice: Teach kids the dangers of ice

The Minnesota DNR urges parents to teach their children about ice safety. (Submitted photo)

Now is the time to talk with kids about the dangers of ice. Ice thickness varies greatly on lakes, ponds and rivers throughout the state. Some water bodies have none, while others have several inches, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Ice, especially early ice with snow cover, is extremely deceptive because you can't see dangerous cracks or the thickness of the ice under the snow," said DNR Conservation Officer Adam Block. "Parents need to teach their kids that ice is never 100 percent safe. If your child is near the ice, you should be near your child."

With many children out of school for holiday breaks, they may look toward newly forming ice for entertainment.

"In addition to checking conditions locally and being prepared with an ice safety kit, anyone recreating on ice should be wearing a life jacket or float coat," said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. "A life jacket is the one piece of equipment that increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion should you fall through the ice."

Ice safety guidelines

No ice can ever be considered "safe ice," but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:

• Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle).

• Children should never be unsupervised around ice.

• Caution children to stay off ponds, streams, and other bodies of water.

• A thin coating of ice on a pond or lake does not mean it is safe.

• Check ice thickness at regular intervals — conditions can change quickly.

• Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

• Avoid channels and rivers.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:

• 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.

• 5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.

• 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.

• 12-15 inches for a medium truck.

Double these minimums for white or ice covered with heavy snow.

For more information, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety and mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.