Look, but don’t venture onto Quarton Lake this winter

Police offer tips on ice safety as cold sets in

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 26, 2013

Of course, Michigan has plenty of bodies of water to choose from besides the not-so-freeze-friendly Quarton. If you’re looking for some icy fun, the Oakland County Marine Division has some tips for heading offshore this season.

• When determining the strength of ice, look for a clear, solid blue color. If the ice is honeycombed, that is a sign of unstable ice. Five inches of ice is the minimum for general use, like ice skating and fishing, and eight inches of ice is necessary for vehicles like snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles.

• Consider wearing a flotation device at all times.

• Always take a partner with you.

• Carry a cellphone in a plastic bag.

• Avoid making the first tracks on the ice.

• Check with someone who has experience with a particular lake or pond about the ice.

• Let family or friends know about your travel plans.

• Dress in layers.

• When in doubt, don’t go out.

BIRMINGHAM — As metro Detroit inches ever closer to the chill of winter, many have turned their attention to cold-weather fun, like skating and ice fishing.

But, according to local experts, there’s a lot to consider when taking to the lakes for some icy activities. In Michigan, residents need to be absolutely sure water is frozen before they head offshore.

Oakland County has 10,000 bodies of water and 450 navigable lakes, and while each lake varies in depth and rate of the current, Sgt. Michael Suarez of the Oakland County Marine Division said, “No ice is 100 percent safe.”

That risk is magnified on Quarton Lake, according to Lt. Keith Lampear of the Birmingham Fire Department. He said that because Quarton is a moving body of water, it rarely if ever freezes enough to be safe to venture out on.

“Quarton Lake is never really safe,” said Lampear. “It’s not designed for swimming, and we really don’t recommend anybody go out there on the ice. There are even signs posted out there that say not to go out on the ice.”

Of course, that advice hasn’t always been heeded over the years, said Lampear, who recalled having to save a child from the lake years ago when the thin ice gave way. Another time, a woman chased her loose dog onto Quarton.

Luckily, for the most part, he said, Birmingham residents know to stay off of Quarton during the winter months.

The important thing to remember, though, is that when the unthinkable happens and someone does fall through the ice, the first thing to do is call 911, Lampear said. Don’t ever go out and attempt to rescue a person or animal that has fallen through the ice by yourself.

After all, before you’re able to retrieve your loved one from the cold lake, you could succumb to hypothermia, which occurs when the body loses heat faster than it’s able to produce it. When immersed in icy water for even moments, the symptoms of hypothermia could set in, including shivering, lack of coordination, confusion, drowsiness, weak pulse, loss of consciousness and shallow breathing.

“Call us, and we’ll come out. We have equipment,” he said, explaining that the Birmingham Fire Department has water rescue suits and a small boat for such emergencies. “We’ve trained for this stuff, and we have resources to take care of it. If someone goes out after someone who’s fallen through the ice, now we could have two or three victims instead of one.”

Suarez agreed and said it’s a common occurrence for people to panic when they see someone fall through the ice and attempt to go after them, when really they should remain calm. When you’re calm, that’s when you’re able to be logical and think clearly, which will likely help rather than worsen the situation.

“The best thing you can do is try to stay calm, think it out and use the resources that you have,” he said. Individuals should use objects like a rope, a branch or a ladder to assist others, rather than running onto weak ice, he added.

Staff Writer Cari DeLamielleure-Scott contributed to this article.