OSCEOLA COUNTY - Officials with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department want to make sure the residents of Osceola County stay safe this holiday season by staying off thin ice.

Ice on local lakes and rivers must be five inches thick to hold the weight of a person and eight inches thick for snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.

While Sheriff Crawford hopes that all residents will wait until the ice has thickened. He warns that the ice is never 100 percent safe. Anyone venturing out onto the ice should take the following precautions:

● Do not make the first tracks on the ice. Check with someone familiar with the area before going out.

● Leave a travel plan with someone in case you don’t return.

● Dress in layers to protect all exposed body parts. Consider wearing a personal flotation device, and ice creepers for boots.

● Carry safety items like a cell phone, whistle, or rope. Ice picks, or even screwdrivers can be used to climb onto broken ice.

● Check ice thickness by using an ice spud, auger, or cordless drill. Keep a safe distance between yourself and others in your group. And, if you find a weak spot, retreat.

● If you hear the ice crack, have your group spread out. Everyone should immediately lie down to distribute the weight on the ice more evenly, then crawl on your belly to safer ice.

● If someone falls through the ice, do not run to the hole. Call 911 and then use a pole, branch, rope, ladder, boat, or other long object to try and reach the victim.

● If you fall through the ice, stay calm. Call out for help and kick your feel while getting hands and arms up onto safer ice. Ice picks or screwdrivers can help you get a grip on the ice. Continue to swim up onto the ice until you can crawl or rollout onto the ice to safety.

● Pets that go out on ice are a major cause for many near-drownings and deaths. If  your pet has wandered onto dangerous ice, do not follow them. Stay where you are and coax them back to safety.

The Osceola law enforcement team and first responders hope that nobody in Osceola County will find themselves in such a precarious situation on the ice this season, by heeding the warnings above he knows you can stay alive.