Play It Safe Outdoors in Winter
Simple Steps to Keep You Safe During Outdoor Winter Activities
(Nov. 29, 2017) — The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County reminds visitors to play it safe while enjoying ice fishing, snow tubing, cross-country skiing and other fun winter activities
“The safest way to enjoy the outdoors is with another person so you’re not alone if there’s an emergency,” said Dan Jones, assistant site operations manager and longtime District ranger. “If that’s not possible, let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.”
For those venturing onto the ice, as a guideline not a guarantee, there should be at least 4 inches of clear ice. In DuPage County’s forest preserves, rangers do not monitor ice conditions, so visitors step onto the ice at their own risk. “It’s always a good idea to carry a set of ice picks with you in case you fall through the ice,” Jones adds.
Wind, snow, rain, sunlight, water levels, underground springs and temperature can all affect the strength of the ice, which can vary greatly over one body of water. Anyone venturing out onto the ice should know the signs of dangerous conditions:
● Cracks, ridges or faults
● Different-colored ice, especially dark gray or black
● Ice that looks rotten or porous
● Ice covered by snow, water or slush
● Running water or bubbles under the ice
“If you fall through the ice, turn toward the direction you came from because that’s probably the strongest ice,” Jones said. “Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, kick your feet, and try to pull yourself out using ice picks if you have them. Once you’re out of the water, lie flat on the ice and roll away from the hole. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area as soon as possible and call 911.”
Frostbite and hypothermia can also pose dangers, even in milder winter weather. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech and loss of motor skills. Signs of frostbite, which most frequently harms extremities like fingers, toes, ears, and noses, include numbness, a white or grayish-yellow skin color, or an unusual waxy feeling to the skin.
Medical attention is necessary to treat these conditions, but dressing properly in the first place can help prevent them. Wool, silk and synthetic fleece retain body heat better than cotton. Waterproof boots, thick socks, a hat, and gloves or mittens help keep extremities warm. A scarf, neck tube or facemask will keep your face warm and help cover as much exposed skin as possible.
Keep in mind that some people are more susceptible to the cold, particularly children, the elderly and those with circulation problems.
It’s also a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading outside, paying close attention to storm watches and warnings and wind chill warnings.
“Dressing in warm layers and staying dry offers the best protection,” said Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore. “An outer layer to block wind and moisture, an insulating inner layer to retain heat, and a base layer to wick away perspiration is the ideal combination.”
“Stay hydrated and take frequent breaks from the cold to let the body warm up,” said Forest Preserve District Commissioner Linda Painter, District 3. “With just a few precautions, winter outdoor activities should be safe and fun!”
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 4 million people visit its 62 forest preserves, 145 miles of trails, five education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.