Cold Water Safety Tips
There are countless water activities that you can do here in Canada. If safety precautions are properly implemented, these water activities should be safe. However, the combination of inexperience and unpredictable weather and water conditions can certainly lead to unwanted events. The biggest risk with any water activity is drowning. But there are simple measures which you can do to help prevent water accidents, such as knowing and implementing water safety measures, having training in first aid, wearing flotation devices, and having rescue equipment ready.
Aside from drowning another potentially life-threatening risk associated with water accidents is hypothermia, especially when the accident occurs in cold water.
Keep Victim Warm
In case of water accidents, your goal is to keep the victim as warm as possible. Low body temperature or hypothermia is one of the leading causes of deaths in water accidents. Here are simple ways of how you can maintain your body temperature.
· Keep the head covered by wearing hood or hat – almost one-third of the body heat is lost through the head.
· Use emergency signaling devices such as whistle or flares to call for help.
· Assume fetal or ball position by bringing your knees close to your chest and wrapping your arms around them. This minimizes the surface area exposed to the water, which slows down heat loss.
Managing Cold Shock
Submerging in cold water can literally take your breath away. Immersion in extremely cold water can cause a sudden physiologic response, which is known as cold shock. Falling into cold water causes the heart and breathing rate to peak up. Although this is a normal body response, sudden increase in breathing (60-90 breaths per minute) and pulse (150-180 beats per minute) can completely debilitate a person, and can even cause stroke or heart attack in high risk population.
Once out of the water, keep the casualty warm by putting on thermal blanket. Change soaked clothes. Provide treatment for hypothermia and call 911. Keep the airway open and monitor breathing. Be ready to provide CPR if necessary.
Managing Cold Water Accidents In a Group
If the accident involves a group, then additional steps should be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
· Make sure everyone’s head is well covered. As much as possible, keep everyone awake.
· Bring your knees close to your chest and huddle as close as possible. Place younger children in the middle.
· Inflate flotation device and stay as a group.
· Take turns in calling for help and stay calm.
Preventing Cold Water Accidents
Cold water accidents are preventable. Before you set out for any water activity, you have to consider the possible accidents that can happen. The coastal waters, and even inland waters, in North America can be as cold as 40ºF. Since water conducts heat much faster than air, immersion in such low temperature can instantly lead to hypothermia.
If you know that there is a risk of being immersed in cold water, you have to bring with you proper protective clothing such as a head covering, a dry suit, a thick layer of flees, and a nylon underwear. If going out as a group, be ready with an emergency kit. As much as possible, have appropriate supervision before engaging in any water activities.