Cold Water Survival Regulations
Cold water can be extremely dangerous. According to the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force, cold water can decrease your body heat up to 32 times faster than cold air. Knowing what to do when someone has been submerged in cold water could mean the difference between life and death.
Avoid cold water injury and death by taking preventative measures. Make sure your boat and all of its equipment are working properly. If you’re going to be gone for a long period of time, make sure someone knows where you’re going to be and how long you’ll be there.
Wear several layers of light clothing. A wet suit offers the best protection against cold water, but next to that, wool clothing is extremely helpful. And, of course, always wear a life jacket.
If someone was in the water for only a short period of time before you pulled them out, he may not be in serious danger. If he is conscious, breathing and capable of having a rational conversation, you may only need to remove his wet clothes and replace them with dry ones (or blankets, if you have them). But to be on the safe side, it’s always best to head back to land after someone has been recovered.
If the person recovered is only semiconscious, or not conscious at all, a different approach is needed. Get her to a warm environment. Remove her clothing but make sure not to move her body very much. If this can’t be done, leave the clothing on. Do not massage her legs and arms.
Do everything you can to reheat her core. If possible, place her in a bathtub of water at 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep her legs and arms outside of the bathtub, though. This is to avoid a condition called after-drop, which happens when cold blood in the arms and legs flows into the body’s core.
If there’s not a bathtub available, place hot, wet towels on the victim’s head, neck, groin and torso. If towels and blankets are unavailable, you can use your body heat to rewarm the victim.
Scientists have discovered something called the diving reflex in marine mammals. This is a survival mechanism that causes blood flow in the arms and legs to be redirected to the heart, brain and lungs.
Humans also may experience the diving reflex and, as a result, can appear to be dead. They may have no detectable pulse, breathing or heartbeat. Their pupils may be dilated, and their skin may appear blue. The reason it’s important to be aware of this reflex is because the person you rescue may appear to be dead, but they are, in fact, still alive.
Begin your resuscitative procedures immediately after the victim has been recovered. And remember, according to the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force, numerous children have been brought up from freezing water after 30 minutes and been successfully resuscitated.