What should you do if your car breaks through ice over a pond? Most ponds in Clay County are around 20-feet deep. In Vigo County, the water could be 120-feet deep.
Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Chief Tom Champion recently offered winter travel safety tips for Clay County motorists.
"Most people panic immediately. Gather your senses. Unbuckle and roll down your window. Most cars are watertight for only about three minutes. You can't wait until the water pressure is too strong to open your door. Even power windows will work because most vehicle electric systems will continue to run for about 20 minutes," Champion said.
He said if you become trapped beneath the ice, look up. Above, it will be white or bluish-white. Head for the dark area because that's the hole you just fell through. Seek shelter immediately to avoid hypothermia.
Put together a safety kit to keep in your vehicle. A box or milk-type crate would be sufficient size to hold necessary items. A small, folding, camp shovel, flashlight, road flares or light sticks, blanket, heat packs and an jug filled with kitty litter are useful.
"The shovel can help dig out your vehicle and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow to prevent fume build-up. Kitty litter spread around and under tires can aide with traction," he said.
Light sticks and thermal heat packs are sold at sporting goods and discount stores. Lights sticks usually come in packages of three and each one last up to 12 hours. Heat packs are flexible and usually have a gel-like substance inside as well as a metal disc. When activated, the pack produces stable heat for about 45 minutes. If it's enclosed under the arm pit or some such area to prevent hypothermia, temperatures could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you're back at home, heat packs can be reactivated by placing them in boiling water and allowed to cool off. Therefore, heat packs can be put back into your safety kit to be used multiple times.
Before leaving in your vehicle, check with local law enforcement or media for road conditions. Dress for the weather, not the trip. Design an alternate travel plan should your path become blocked by snow removal, downed trees or power lines or motor vehicle accidents. And let friends know your travel routes. Develop an advance plan for each type of emergency you may encounter because any plan created under emergency stress conditions has a greater chance of failure.
"Clean snow from headlights and taillights and all windows and not just a small hole on the driver's windshield," Champion said.
Allow extra drive time and greater space in between vehicles for safer trip. If your vehicle is a pick-up truck or has rear-wheel drive, place extra weight in the rear for added traction.
"If you begin to slide, don't brake! Steer into the direction you are sliding just a little bit and then steer out of it," he advised.
Never leave your car unless you're in danger where you are. Carry a cell phone with you if possible. Never leave your car with a stranger but instead have them call for help.
Most cars burn one gallon of gasoline per hour. If you keep your tank filled at least half-way, you should have enough fuel to run your engine of and on for about 15 hours. Avoid slippery or inclined intersections. If you become stranded at the bottom of a hill, set road flares at the top of the hill to alert on-coming traffic.