Hazard Communication

Notice put on Shelburne Pond this yearSomething I often hear after an accident is that 'officials' should put some sort of warning at ice access points about ice hazards, particularly the ones that led to the accident.  This is an impossible task for all but a few, small, heavily used places.  There way too many lakes and ponds with ice, most of the them are complicated and  ice is changing constantly.  In some places in Europe this managed better but they have huge skating populations, lots of clubs and substantial public support. 

In North America we are few in number given the amount of ice we have, we generally don't like officials telling us not to put ourselves at risk and we have far too few people with the time and knowledge to properly check ice for the wide range of activities that take place.  On top of all that, we seem to have too many people that see a bad outcome as someone else's fault with occasional law suits resulting.  This discourages official and unoffical involvement.

You can do things on a personal basis.  I often tape a note to my car window outlining what I knew about an ice last time I was on it.  This seems to be helpful.  We had an unusual, persistent fold down ridge on one of our popular skating ponds this year.  I posted the above sign there.  A nighttime skater fell through the ridge, as it turns out, a couple days before the sign went up. If you do post something, stick to what you know and remind readers that you do not know about all hazards.

  A general ice safety review posted at access point kiosks is a good reminder.  The Danger Thin Ice Brochure published by the Minnesota DNR is an excellent and widely used example.  In reality, much of the communication about ice hazards is verbal.  That is why it is always a good idea to talk to people who have been on the ice about what they have seen and heard from others. At the end of the day we are left with the 'buyer beware' reality of lake ice.

Bob  - March 2012