Rescue Ready Boating in Alaska Series: Cold Water Survival

Rescue Ready Boating in Alaska Series: Cold Water Survival


Jacques: “Cold water is anything less than 70 degrees. So in the state of Alaska we only have cold water.” Kelli: “What people need to understand is cold water transfers heat faster than air. So, the bottom line is try to get your body out of the water.” Jacques: “So even if it feels colder, even if it’s windy outside, you have a better chance of surviving if you’re out of the water.” Kelli: “If you find yourself falling into a river, it’s important to point your head towards that desired bank, causing an angle, and when you do that, the force and the direction of the water will actually push your body to one side of the river or the other.” Suzanne: “When we’re swimming downriver we want to make sure that our feet are pointing up and pointing downstream so that they don’t accidentally get caught in a rock. One of the things that we practice is back sweeping until you feel your bottom hit a rock and you can roll over and get out.” Jacques: “So if you’re in the middle of a large lake or off-shore, you know, you have to make a decision if you’re gonna swim, or don’t swim. When making the swim/don’t swim decision there are multiple factors to consider. What tools do I have? Am I wearing my life jacket? Do I have my signaling devices on me? Do I have my emergency communication with me? Is everybody else in the group OK? Are they gonna be able to make the swim? Do I need to assist anybody? Can I get myself out of the water? Do I really need to swim to shore? Do I think I could make it?” Rick: “I figured, you know, it’s a beautiful sunny day, it’s 35 degrees I’m just gonna jump in the canoe with my brother-in-law and flipped our canoe. Yeah there’s absolutely no way you can prepare for that. We’re lucky we didn’t drown from inhaling water from the cold shock.” Kelli: “According to Dr. Michael Tipton, it’s important to consider the ‘Float First’ concept, Upon initial immersion in cold water the victim should actually lay on their back and wait for the hyperventilation and gasping to stop and to be able to regain your breath control. Then you’re not putting so much strain on your heart.” Rick: “The incoming tide in this lagoon was pushing us deeper and deeper and 50 feet from shore quickly turned into 150 feet and then 1,000 feet. Professionals talk about, well you have 30 minutes of active engagement to try to pull yourself out of the water. It was astounding how quickly we were completely debilitated. I actually blacked out after about 20 or 30 minutes. But we did make it to shore and my fingers looked like they had been stuck into a meat grinder, because apparently I had tried to crawl over all the barnacles and mussels to get out of the water, but my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t feel anything. Just to give you some perspective, I was a certified sea kayak instructor, I grew up as a little kid on a lake, I’ve spent a lot of time boating, and when this happened I was stunned. Um, Yeah I was just really happy to see my wife.” Jacques: “It doesn’t matter how experienced of a boat operator you are or how good of a swimmer you are, cold water is dangerous and it can kill you, so you have to wear a life jacket.”

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