DNR warden says right gear can save lives on frozen WI lakes

PEWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect for all of southeastern Wisconsin for Thursday night and Friday -- and wind chills are expected to range from 15 to 25 degrees below zero. The cold temperatures may have some itching to get out and do some ice fishing -- but DNR officials are warning folks to be careful.

Iced over or not, Wisconsin Safety Warden Jason Roberts spends a lot of time on Wisconsin lakes.

During the summer, he participates in OWI checks on boats, and during the winter, his focus is on snowmobiles.

"What you need to remember is ice can be unpredictable and if ice is unpredictable then it can be unsafe," Roberts said.

Roberts says folks shouldn't just assume bodies of water are completely frozen over and safe just because the temperature is low.

Roberts says anything can happen, and those looking to be out on the frozen water need to have a plan in case something goes wrong -- and that includes making sure you have the proper gear on hand.

"Type four PFD (personal floatation device) -- typically called a safe cushion. If you're going to buy a jacket, consider purchasing a jacket that has floatation built right into it," Roberts said.

Having this equipment could help you get out of the water on your own if you were to fall in.

Roberts says a common reason people drown after falling through ice is because a friend or family member has to try to pull them out.

Roberts says should you fall in -- it's obviously important to try to keep your head above water.

"They key component is not to drown. If you don't drown, you can actually last quite a long time. You can last up to an hour in the water and still survive," Roberts said.

Roberts says if you're one of those people who loves to be out on the lake this time of the year -- spending that extra money on good safety gear is extremely important -- because it could save your life.

The DNR says there were no ice fishing deaths last year, but five deaths from snowmobile riders breaking through the ice.