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A park ranger jumps across the thin ice to point out a potential hazard


A Colorado park ranger dived through a thin layer of ice on a frozen lake to show how easy it is to fall through.

In the video, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife ranger named Kate walks out into the middle of a lake at Staunton State Park wearing a bright yellow ice suit. She jumps onto the thin layer, which almost immediately gives way to the icy water below.

“Another day for a park ranger,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post. “Pay attention to ice and weather conditions before you go!”

The agency shared tips on how to avoid what could be a fatal error.

Check out the ice, bring a buddy

“Looks can be deceiving! Always check the ice and don’t rely on its appearance,” says the first tip. Officials encourage checking conditions online or calling ahead to determine ice conditions.

Don’t forget to bring a friend who can call for a rescue if you or someone else gets caught.

“A rescue attempt may result in you also falling under the ice,” the agency said. And if you’re going out on the ice alone, it’s important to tell someone else about your plan and where you’re going.

Put on a life jacket

It is important to wear a life jacket or “swimsuit” over winter clothing. One bonus is that life jackets can provide additional protection from the cold, the agency said.

Be sure to wear personal safety equipment, such as ice picks and a whistle, when out on the ice. A rope, a ‘bag’ and a mobile phone are also essential equipment that you should have with you. Keep your cell phone in a secure pocket or even better in a waterproof bag. This way you can call for help if you fall into icy water.

Alcohol and ice do not mix

You might not want to hear it, but drinking alcohol while on the ice is a bad idea — and not just because it clouds your judgment or can make you clumsy and less alert. Having alcohol in your system increases your chances of developing hypothermia, officials said. It’s also a good idea to stay hydrated with water and warm fluids to prevent hypothermia.

Keep pets away from ice

Pets must be on a leash around frozen lakes and ponds, the agency reports. It is important to never let your pet run out onto the ice. If they do fail, you shouldn’t try to save them either. The agency recommends calling for help.

Keep calm and save your energy

In the event that you fall under the ice, it is important to remain calm to save as much energy as possible, the agency notes.

It’ll be hard to do with adrenaline pumping through your veins, but it’s also important to “take it slow and deliberate to stay warm,” officials said. You should expect that your strength will gradually decrease and your ability to move will become more difficult.

“Do more difficult maneuvers early on while you can,” officials said.

Do not attempt to swim

You shouldn’t try to swim either, officials said. “Swimming will cause your body to lose heat much faster and use up energy than if you stayed as still as possible.”

In other words, you get tired faster. Instead of swimming, you should try to stretch your arms out onto the ice and kick “as hard as you can” to get up onto the ice. You must then use the ice ax to grab onto the ice and “roll to safety”.

“Remember: Reach-Throw-Go”

If someone falls under the ice, you won’t be able to reach them from shore. In such a situation, officials urge to “remember: reach-throw-go.” If you can’t reach them, throw a flotation device or rope. And if you still can’t help immediately, then go ahead and call for help.

If you can’t get out on your own, try to keep your upper body above the water to conserve body heat. In this case, use your whistle or shout to others that you need help.

Brooke (she/they) is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter covering LGBTQ+ news and national parks in the West. They studied journalism at the University of Florida and previously covered LGBTQ+ news for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. When they are not writing stories, they enjoy spending time with their cats, horseback riding, or spending time outdoors.

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