Warning from local authorities: Keep off the ice!
VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Even though West Michigan is experiencing some frigid temperatures, local law enforcement are sending out a warning to keep off the ice.
Van Buren County Central Dispatch says the ice is not thick enough in many places to walk or ride over it. If you take a chance and step onto the ice, you could put those around you in danger.
Sheriff Daniel Abbott says five inches of ice is needed to safely hold the weight of a person. Driving, ice fishing or snowmobiling over the ice requires even more.
For those out on the ice, if you hear the ice crack, Sheriff Abbott says to have your group spread out. Everyone can lie down immediately to distribute the weight more evenly, and then crawl on their bellies to safer ice.
If you do find yourself or someone in your group has fallen through the ice, do not panic or run out to save them.
First call 911. Then if you have a pole, rope or tree branch nearby, you can try to pull the person to safety. Tell them to kick their feet to stay afloat, and try to get as much of their body above the water as they can. Pushing a small row boat while still holding on is the safest way to rescue someone who has fallen through.
Firefighters say the last thing you want to do is get stuck in the ice trying to help, because you'll make the situation even worse.
Authorities say if your pet runs onto the ice, do not run after them. It is better if you stay on the shore, and call your animal back to safety before they fall in.
After getting out of the water, it is important for whoever fell in to get into dry, warm clothes. Hypothermia is the biggest danger, so taking off the wet, cold clothes is crucial.