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Nov 28, 2016



Sometimes those occasional warm autumn days can be deceiving, because the water temperature can be frigid. Taking some simple steps can turn a worst-case scenario of a swamped or capsized boat into the best-case scenario for surviving cold-water immersion. To reduce the risk, make sure to not overload your boat, avoid those situations that put you at risk of going overboard and make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket.

Understanding the critical phases of cold-water immersion and knowing some basic techniques to delay hypothermia’s onset greatly increase your chances of survival. Cold shock is an initial deep and sudden gasp, followed by hyperventilation, which has been shown to increase breathing by 600 to 1,000 percent. Keeping your airway clear and wearing a life jacket greatly reduce the risk of drowning. Try not to panic, and concentrate on your breathing. Cold shock will normally pass in one minute.

Over the next 10 minutes, you will lose the effective use of your extremities. Concentrate on self-rescue; if that’s not possible, keep your airway clear and wait for rescue. Remain calm and don’t try to swim. Loss of body heat can be 10 times faster through the movements associated with swimming.

Hypothermia means that a person is losing body heat faster than he can produce it; but even in icy water it may take approximately an hour before a person becomes unconscious. (To learn more about surviving cold-water immersion, visit If you cannot get out of the water and help is not immediately available, draw your knees to your chest and wrap your arms across your chest (hugging your life jacket) in the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P.), protecting the critical areas of heat loss. If others are in the water with you, huddle together with your arms around each other, both to conserve body heat and create a larger target to spot in the water.

Don’t Boat Alone Especially in the Fall and Winter