Cold water facts
There are a lot of misconceptions about cold water and cold water related accidents. Test your knowledge by reading the FACTS below.
"Cold Water" is defined as being any water temperature under 70 degrees
It doesn't sound very cold, but when you are immersed suddenly, it will take your breath away. These cool and cold-water temperatures are enough to drop your body's core temperature significantly. Much of the water in the United States falls to temperatures at or below the cold water definition every winter. The water near Saint Augustine, FL nearly took the life of a commercial towboat operator when he was accidently immersed in 68 degree water. The water off San Francisco, California, a warm weather state, rarely sees temperatures above 55 degrees all year.
Without a life jacket, you can only survive for around 10 minutes in cold water. With a life jacket, you can survive for over an hour before hypothermia sets in.
That’s right. 50 precious minutes or more of extra time to have help arrive. After 10 minutes in the cold water, your body looses the ability to move. That means you loose the ability to swim for shore, swim back to the boat, or even tread water. But in reality, hypothermia doesn’t set in for quite some time. Strong swimming skills don’t help after those 10 minutes are up. Do yourself a favor and wear a life jacket and review the 1-10-1 principle.
Victims that have been in cold water require different CPR techniques.
The Cold Water Boot Camp USA projects have prompted the development of cutting edge rescue techniques and medical procedures geared toward victims that have been exposed to cold water. The skills covered in Rescue, Recover, Rewarm are vital to first responders to minimize fatalities and severe long term effects.
Many victims drown just feet from safety.
When a victim sees the shore and thinks they are safe, their body stops releasing adrenaline. Unfortunately, without that adrenaline, their body sometimes freezes up and they literally cannot move another inch. In many of these cases, the victim drowns simply because they thought they had reached safety. Many of our bootcampers experience this when they reach the shore and find themselves unable to move. This is an example of how the skills covered in Rescue, Recover, Rewarm can be used by responders to save lives.
Most times first responders are not trained medical professionals.
In boating accidents, they are often other boaters. When accidents occur closer to home they can be family members, friends, or neighbors. Even if you think you’ll never be the one to rescue a cold water victim, think again, and review the lessons covered in our Safety Principles section. You could save a life.
Even good swimmers drown.
When exposed to cold water, people in great shape that are amazing swimmers experience the gasping, the shock, the inability to move, and the potential to drown. All of our bootcampers were chosen for their above average knowledge of cold water safety and their above average physical conditions and swimming skills. All that and they still had the same problems that many victims experience. Share in their experiences (while staying dry!).
Many cold water accidents aren’t related to boating at all.
Last year cold water accidents included drownings in which the victims were immersed in backyard water landscape features and in neighborhood retention ponds. Be safe. Drain fountains over the winter. Install fences around pools and other water features. Drain them in winter months and be sure they cannot collect water or snow that will melt and become an unrealized drowning hazard.
No Ice is Safe Ice.
A 6 inch thick piece of ice is needed to safely cross-country ski across a pond. It takes 8 - 12 inches of ice to support a standard vehicle. There is no safe way to know what the thickness of the ice is until it breaks. To make sure you don’t end up going through the ice, don’t walk out onto frozen rivers, don’t drive on frozen lakes, and review our Ice Safety Sheet for more tips.