Boaters: Beware of cold water

    OTTAWA, Oct. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Transport Canada's Office of Boating
Safety in partnership with Cold Water Boot Camp, an education campaign, would
like to raise awareness among Canadian boaters of the deadly effects of cold
water during the fall season and remind boaters of important safety rules when
navigating on cold water.
    The Office of Boating Safety has been working with the Canadian Safe
Boating Council, one of the major partners supporting this new initiative, and
other organizations to implement Cold Water Boot Camp, which was approved in
2007 to run for three years. The Government of Canada is contributing a total
of $424,700 to this program through the Search and Rescue New Initiatives
Fund, managed by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat.
    "The Government of Canada is concerned with the average of 149 people who
die every year due to cold water immersion," said the Honourable Lawrence
Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. "This new
initiative is providing Canadians with an education program to inform,
motivate and change their behaviour, and to increase the survival of boaters
when navigating in cold water."
    The best-case scenario for cold water immersion is to reduce or prevent
the risk of falling overboard or capsizing. It can be as simple as not
overloading your boat or avoiding heavy wave conditions. Always ensure that
everyone is wearing a Canadian-approved lifejacket because accidents can
happen quickly and it is difficult to put a lifejacket on in the water.
    "People mistakenly think if they can swim, they don't need a lifejacket.
But when water is cold, sudden immersion can cause cold shock, involuntary
gasping and deep hyperventilation. This is followed by cold incapacitation and
in a short time, as the muscles and nerves in the limbs get cold, a person
will lose the ability to self rescue or even swim," said Ted Rankine, Director
of the Canadian Safe Boating Council. "Far too many people die within swimming
distance of safety, such as a boat, dock or the shore, because of the initial
effects of cold water immersion."
    It's important to know that you lose body heat 25 times faster in water
than in air at the same temperature, and that factor can be increased
substantially with movement like swimming if you are not wearing thermal
protection. The best choice in flotation equipment for cold water immersion is
a type that offers maximum thermal protection such as a floater jacket and
pants or a one-piece survival suit. If you find yourself in cold water, in
addition to having proper flotation, there are some things you can do to delay
the onset of hypothermia. Using the Heat Escape Lessening Position will help
conserve body heat. If you're alone, drawing your legs up close to your chest
and wrapping your arms around them in a tuck position will help conserve body
heat. If you're in a group, huddling together as close as possible will also
help conserve body heat.
    As part of the project campaign, nine volunteers offered to demonstrate
the dangerous effects of cold water by jumping in and experiencing firsthand
what happens in 6:C water. For more information, or to see what really happens
during cold water immersion, please visit

    A backgrounder with further information about the effects of cold water
and hypothermia is attached.

    For more details on the Heat Escape Lessening Position, please visit

    For general boating safety tips or to obtain a free copy of the Safe
Boating Guide, please visit



    1- You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. The
       "gasp" reflex caused by cold shock will pass in about one minute.
       During that time don't panic, but get control of your breathing.
       Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep
       you afloat so you can concentrate on getting your breathing under

    2- Focus on self rescue. If that isn't possible, be aware that you will
       become incapacitated and unable to swim. Wearing a lifejacket will
       allow you to keep your head above water and your airway clear while
       waiting for rescue.

    3- Delay hypothermia. Even in ice water, without proper thermal
       protection it could take approximately one hour before you become
       unconscious due to hypothermia. If you understand the signs of
       hypothermia, the techniques to delay it including self rescue, and how
       to effectively call for help, your chances of survival and rescue will
       be dramatically increased.

                           HYPOTHERMIA DEMYSTIFIED

    Hypothermia can be divided into mild, moderate and severe stages(1). The
following chart lists the signs and symptoms used in the classification of
these three stages.

    Classifications  Core Body     Patient's     Clinical Presentation
    of Hypothermia   Temperature   Ability       of Hypothermic Patient
                                   to Rewarm
                                   Heat Source
    Normal           Above 95:F    N/A           Cold sensation shivering
    Mild             95-90:F       Good          Physical       Mental
                     35-32:C                     impairment     impairment
                                                 - Fine motor   - Complex
                                                 - Gross motor  - Simple
    Moderate         90-82:F                     Below 90:F (32:C) shivering
                                   Limited       stops
                     32-28:C                     Below 86:F (30:C)
                                                 consciousness is lost
                     Below 82:F    Unable        Rigidity
                     28:C                        Vital signs reduced or
                                                 Severe risk of mechanically
                                                 stimulated ventricular
                                                 fibrillation (VF)
                                                 (rough handling)
    Severe       ------------------------------------------------------------
                     Below 77:F    Unable        Spontaneous ventricular
                     25:C                        fibrillation (VF)
                                                  Cardiac arrest


    If there is no way to get to a medical facility within 30 minutes, a
mildly hypothermic person should be warmed up as follows:

    - Shivering is a very effective process, especially when the person is
      well insulated. Shivering should be fueled by calorie replacement with
      fluids containing sugars. The sugar content is actually more important
      than the heat in warm liquids. Make sure that the person is capable of
      ingesting liquids without aspirating. Alcohol and tobacco use should
      not be permitted because they constrict blood flow.

    - External heat can be applied to high heat transfer areas such as the
      chest and underarms. Active heating of the skin is beneficial as it
      increases comfort, preserves energy stores and reduces cardiovascular

    - Light exercise such as walking produces heat but should only be
      attempted after a mildly hypothermic person is dry, has had calorie
      replacement and has been stable for at least 30 minutes. A warm shower
      or bath should never be given as part of the warming process.


    This is a serious medical condition requiring proper handling and
treatment, and in severe cases, immediate transport to a medical facility.
There are some specific things you can do to help stabilize the individual
prior to the arrival of paramedics.

    - Great care must be taken in handling a moderate or severely hypothermic
      person. Extraction from the water must be as gentle as possible to
      avoid ventricular fibrillation. Nothing should be rubbed or
      manipulated. The person should be placed in a horizontal position, wet
      clothing gently cut from the body, and insulated as best as possible
      using dry blankets, clothing or other protective materials. If shelter
      is available, keep the person protected from the elements and insulated
      from the cold ground or snow using sleeping bags, clothing, backpacks
      or even evergreen boughs.

    - If vital signs are present, the person should be warmed up as
      previously described but not allowed to sit or stand until warmed up.
      Under no circumstances should the person be placed in a warm shower or
      bath. No oral fluids or food should be given and no attempts should be
      made to warm up with exercise, including walking.

    In any hypothermic individual, core body temperature continues to decrease
after rescue. It is called "afterdrop" and may last many hours in a moderate
to severely hypothermic person when no shivering is present and metabolic heat
production may be less than 50 per cent of normal. Gradual warming of the
heart will help avoid cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation.

    (1) Hypothermia, Frostbite and other Cold Injuries. G Giesbrecht and
        J.Wilkerson, second edition 2006 The Mountaineers

For further information:

For further information: Catherine Loubier, Director of Communications,
Office of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Ottawa,
(613) 991-0700; Media Relations, Transport Canada, Ottawa, (613) 993-0055;
Communications, Transport Canada, Prairie and Northern Region, (204) 983-6315;
Jillian Glover, Communications, Transport Canada, Vancouver, (604) 666-1675;
Marie-Anyk Côté Communications, Transport Canada, Quebec, (514) 633-2742;
Andrea Spitzer, Director of Communications, Transport Canada, Ontario, (416)
952-0156; Ted Rankine, Director, Canadian Safe Boating Council, (905)
989-0664; Steve Bone, Communications, Transport Canada, Nova Scotia, (902)
426-7795; Transport Canada is online at Subscribe to news
releases and speeches at and keep up to date on the latest
from Transport Canada. This news release may be made available in alternative
formats for persons with visual disabilities.

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