Jan. 7, 2014 at 7:26 AM ET
There's danger lurking on lakes and ponds this winter: thin ice. Every year, people fall in — and some don't survive the frigid water. Here's how to get out alive:
Put your hand over your mouth and nose the moment you go in. "If you take a breath of cold water, it's going to shut down your airway and you're going to stop breathing," said Gerry Dworkin of Lifesaving Resources, a professional consultant on aquatics safety and water rescue. "Cardiac arrest will follow shortly after that."
Carry ice picks if you're venturing out. They cost only a few dollars at outdoor stores. The metal spikes dig in so you can pull yourself out. "Just short, choppy strokes," Dworkin advised. "And then once you're out, you need to roll away from the hole ... just stay on your back, because (you're) distributing (your) weight across the ice."
If a friend or relative falls in, stay on shore and try a rescue from there. Take a rope and throw it to the victim, or use a branch. "Jumper cables, anything," Dworkin advised. "Tell the victim to wrap it around his wrist and (you) can help pull him out." And without putting yourself in danger.
Even if your local lake appears safe — if the ice appears thick — there's no way to know. Experts say the best advice is to stay off the ice entirely.
But if you have to go on the ice, make sure you have a whistle in your pocket: That way you can call out for help.
You can also buy a "float coat" at any outdoor store. It's basically a special winter jacket that'll keep your head above water if you fall in.