I spoke with Nicole Biagi with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources today about some safety tips for early ice in Minnesota. She brought up a great reminder for the Thanksgiving Weekend that's coming up in just days.

Nicole is the Ice Safety Coordinator with the Minnesota DNR. It's actually a new position that was created to spread awareness of safety on the ice.

Why was the Ice Safety Coordinator position created?

I asked Nicole why the DNR decided to create a new position for this. Are more people falling through the ice? Are we seeing more incidents? That's not the case, according to Nicole. The DNR has been seeing more ice-related activities and different groups of people taking to the ice. More people are trying ice-fishing, skating, ice-boating with sails, skiing, and other activities. Some people are new to the area and may not be aware of the risks of being on the ice.

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Different equipment is leading to different ice thickness guidelines.

A lot of the equipment like side-by-sides and ATVs has been getting bigger over the years. The popularity of wheeler ice houses also has been on the rise. Nicole says that an ice house with a truck requires now 20 inches of good ice to be safe.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

What's the best way to protect yourself?

Nicole says for early ice, it's best to use an ice chisel to test the ice in front of you as you walk. You should also wear a life jacket or buoyant clothing. What happens is when someone breaks through the ice, the shock of the cold water causes people to gasp. Sometimes they can't catch their breath and they drown. Wearing floatation can give you the time to collect yourself and get out, by using ice picks, ice chisels, or other safety equipment like a rope.

Minnesota DNR via YouTube
Minnesota DNR via YouTube

What's the warning about for parents on Thanksgiving Weekend?

Nicole had a really good reminder for parents for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. A lot of people will be traveling to see family and friends. Some of those people may be going to a lake home or a residence that has nearby water. If your kids are near the ice, you need to be near the ice watching them. Curious kids may venture out on thin ice and breakthrough. You also should watch out for your pets on the ice as well, because not only could they break through, but your kids may chase after them to save them. So, if you're near the ice at any time of the year, you should keep an eye on your kids. This is true, especially in the early ice season.

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