Stay safe on frozen Great Lakes

Ice fishing shanties on the waters of Green Bay near Sturgeon Bay, February 7, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

(WLUK) -- As winter approaches, the U.S. Coast Guard is reminding outdoor enthusiasts of ways to stay safe on the frozen Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard says those going out onto the lakes should follow these steps:

  1. Take precautions, not chances. The risk of death from accidental immersion during cold weather seasons is higher than in warm seasons. The water is colder and survival time is greatly diminished.

  2. Dress for the water temperatures. Cold water lowers body heat dramatically faster than cold air. Even if you are not planning on entering the water, the possibility of that happening is very real. An unexpected fall overboard is one of the leading factors in boating deaths.

  3. Every minute counts in a cold water environment and preparation may mean the difference between life and death. Never leave without a VHF-FM radio or personal locator beacon and always be sure to tell someone where you're going, when you expect to return and advise them of any changes in the plan.

"Coast Guard boat crews in the area are now wearing dry suits whenever they go out on the water, even though they drive some of the safest, most capable boats on the Great Lakes, and we encourage you to do the same," Capt. Joe McGilley, chief, Ninth District incident management branch, said in a news release. "A life jacket can keep you afloat and dramatically increase your chances of survival if you fall in, but a life jacket is not enough in cold water."

During the past two years, the Coast Guard says its crews were called to 142 ice rescues and saved or helped 121 people.

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