Hypothermia: The cold killer

Published Dec. 17, 2021
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District is reminding boaters to think about winter water safety and the added dangers that could come with an accidental cold-water immersion. 

Water temperatures have dropped well below the normal warm bathwater temperatures you would expect on a hot summer day. This time of year, most people aren’t expecting to get wet when they visit local lakes and rivers.

Accidentally falling in the water could prove fatal if boaters are unprepared.

Boaters should dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Cold-water immersion causes many boating-related fatalities. If you fall in cold water without a life jacket the combination of shock and fatigue are going to play a huge factor in whether you survive or not.

The initial shock following an expected submergence in cold water causes panic and confusion. Alcohol consumption, age and physical fitness are going to come into play if you’re a good distance from the shoreline or your vessel.

If you are able to get out of the water, you are going to need warm clothes, a blanket or heat source to get warm. Having a change of clothes or emergency blanket in your vessel could be your best defense against the lingering effects of hypothermia. Getting out of the wind and wet clothing are very important during this time.

USACE officials ask everyone to take a few extra minutes before you leave home and think about a cold-water plan and the effects of falling in frigid water. Make sure you’re wearing a life jacket, the appropriate clothing and have a backup blanket or heat source to get warm.

Always file a float plan with someone before you leave. The assurance of someone knowing where you are going might keep you from panicking if you are in the water for a prolonged period of time.

Learn more about water safety at www.swl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Water-Safety/.


Release no. 21-136