Cold Water Survival
Although most people never leave the dock thinking that they will end up in the water, it can and does happen--and in cold water, the consequences are life-threatening. Here are some simple ways to maximize your chances of survival.
PROACTIVE: Before You Are In The Water
- Wear a life jacket or PFD to help keep afloat. This will help keep you from breathing in water during the Cold Shock Response and keep you afloat after Cold Water Incapacitation sets in.
- Wear Thermal Protection appropriate for the conditions. While some materials only provide thermal protection (e.g. a Paddling Dry Suit), the ideal is to wear something that provides both thermal protection and flotation.
- Carry a (portable) VHF radio or cell phone (if service is assured) so you can convey your location and your specific need for assistance to expedite rescue.
REACTIVE: After You Are In The Water
- Try to get as much of your body out of the water as possible. If your boat is floating, climb onto the overturned hull or onto any other floating object, such as a cooler. Remember, our bodies lose heat 25 times faster in the water than in air of the same temperature.
- If you are by yourself in the water, adopt the H.E.L.P. (Heat Escape Lessening Position) to help insulate your torso from the temperature of the surrounding water.
If you are with others, huddle together, interlock your arms and legs, and press your torsos together for warmth.
In both cases, remain still. Movement will disturb the layer of water that is against your skin and heated by your body, and thereby increase the rate of heat loss. (Click here to learn more about Mechanisms of Heat Loss.)
||Click the image to view Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht’s
video on Cold Water Survival