Monday, December 7, 2020

Cold Water Safety by Jim Seifert

This past spring's newsletter included Jim Seifert’s extensive and helpfully detailed advice concerning warm weather water safety. The following is his advice concerning cold weather water safety.

Spring and Fall are especially dangerous times to be on the water. Falling into the lake before the water has warmed up is an immediately life-threatening emergency. If you plan to be on the water in the spring and fall you need to plan as though you are somehow going to end up the water. 

PFDs:  WEAR (not just have on board) a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) at all times. If you go into the water, you need to have the buoyancy a PFD provides in order to survive long enough for you to self-rescue or for rescue to arrive. PFDs are also necessary if you are working on your dock or in the water, especially if you are wearing waders. If you flood them, lie on your back to allow the small bit of air trapped in the feet to float your legs to the surface and back-paddle to shore.

Lifeline:  Take a lesson from open water sailors. If you are “on deck” in cold or inclement weather or water conditions, wear a Lifeline clipped to your PFD and have a plan for how you are going to get back into the boat if you fall out, even a fishing boat. This may mean that you have a ladder or a rope ladder attached and ready. If you have a power boat or PWC (Personal Watercraft) make sure your engine kill switch line is also attached to your PFD. Is this inconvenient? Yes. But only until it saves your life.

Rescue plan:  Have a rescue plan in place in case your boat becomes disabled or you are stranded on or in the water.

Water Buddy:  The buddy system (socially distanced of course) is highly recommended for cold water boating. 
Have a friend or relative accompany you to help in case someone falls in. If necessary, have someone follow you in their boat. Having two boats reduces the likelihood that you are stranded on a disabled boat.

Onshore Buddy:  Whenever you are on the water, someone needs to know where you are expecting to go, where you launched from and when you expect to be off the water. In cold water season, you should even text or check in with your onshore buddy a couple of times while you are on the water and when you get off the water. Time is critical in cold water emergencies; you won’t have hours to wait for rescue if you are in the water. Hypothermia sets in quickly. The gold standard is a plan you and your onshore buddy can execute if you need water rescue or don’t check in. Here in Hubbard County we have excellent emergency services capabilities, but County borne water rescue can take time that you may not have. If you know of someone on the lake that also has their boat ready for launch, ask them if they don’t mind being on your emergency call list.

This URL links to a video ”The DNR and Minnesota Wild Ice Safety PSA” that notes further danger when cold water becomes ice.

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