Protection from cold is key part of water safety
Public safety is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ top priority, which urges anyone planning to be on or around water to practice boating and water safety throughout the year.
That includes protecting against hypothermia.
Life jackets should be worn at all times by anyone in a boat, including those waterfowl hunting or fishing. Nearly 90 percent of those who drown were not wearing a life jacket and nearly two-thirds didn’t plan to be in the water.
Those planning to be outdoors near or on the water should dress appropriately for the water temperature, not the air temperature, because they could be or thrown from a boat.
Those in cold water will be unable to swim because in a short time muscles will get cold, eliminating self-rescue ability.
Many suspected drowning victims actually die from cold water immersion instead of hypothermia, but it is still something to be aware of.
Hypothermia causes the body to lose heat faster than it can produce it. Violent shivering develops which may give way to confusion and loss of body movement.
Cold-water immersion follows four stages: cold shock; swimming failure; hypothermia; and post-rescue collapse. The first two stages cause most cold-water drownings.
The 1-10-1 rule can help survival chances:
•Cold shock, which will pass in about 1 minute, is an initial deep and sudden gasp followed by hyperventilation. Concentrate on not panicking and getting breathing under control.
•The next 10 minutes will end the effective use of fingers, arms and legs. During this time initially concentrate on self-rescue. If that is impossible, keep your airway clear to breath and wait for rescue. Even in ice water, unconsciousness from hypothermia could take about an hour.
•Wear a life jacket to keep afloat and your head above water. Life jacket styles are available for many activities, including hunting and cold weather and float coats come in many colors including camouflage for waterfowl hunting and for those who boat when air and water temperatures are cool.
Besides wearing a life jacket, other things that can delay hypothermia include the Heat Escape Lessening (HELP) and Huddle Positions help conserve body heat–if alone pull your knees up to your chest and wrap your arms around your knees, if with other people huddle as close together as possible and wrap your arms around each other.
Boaters should also avoid boating alone; tell someone their route and when they will return; not overload the boat; dress for the water temperature; and know how to minimize heat loss if they fall in the water.