It’s getting chilly out there, which means it’s time to brush up on our ice and cold water safety. Cold water is any water that is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This may not seem that bad, but cold water can rob the body of heat 25 to 30 times more quickly than air. This escape of body heat can lead to hypothermia and death.
It is important to understand the symptoms of hypothermia so you can recognize it quickly. The most obvious symptoms are confusion, lack of coordination, slurred speech, uncontrollable shivering, and unconsciousness. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or others there are steps to take to help someone with hypothermia.
First, always call for medical help immediately. Then, if the situation is safe for yourself, remove the victim from the cold water or air. Once they are out of the cold area, remove any wet clothing and keep them as dry as possible. It is very important to keep the victim as warm as possible. So, wrap them up in blankets and build a fire to raise their temperature. Giving them warm liquids to drink will warm their internal temperature, just make sure it includes no alcohol or caffeine. Finally you can place the victim in a warm bath with their arms and legs out of the water, this helps their core temperature rise first.
Hopefully, no one finds themselves in a situation where the above tips for helping with hypothermia victims is necessary. To help prevent that situation from happening the following are useful tips for preventing hypothermia before it starts. Always wear layers of warm clothing in cold environments. It is especially useful to cover your hands and head with hats and gloves. Everyone should keep as dry as possible. When near cold water make sure to always wear a personal floatation device. To make sure you can always start a fire, carry matches in a waterproof container.
If you plan to walk out onto ice remember that there is no surefire way to recognize if ice is safe. There are many factors to recognizing ice safety; including thickness, temperature, age, depth of water under the ice, etc. All of these things factor into whether ice is safe or not and none of them create a situation that is 100 percent safe. Another factor to remember is that ice on moving water is never safe.
Reach-Throw-Go. These are the three words someone should remember if a companion falls through ice. The first step is to simply reach for the victim and try to pull them out. If you are unable to reach the person from shore the first step is to throw them something they can grab onto. This can include a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, etc. As a last resort, go find help before you also fall through the ice. Immediately after the victim is safe and out of the ice call for medical assistance.
If you yourself fall through the ice the first step is to not panic. Next you will want to go towards the direction you came from and place your arms on the unbroken surface of ice. Using your feet kick yourself out of the water and remain lying flat on the ice. Roll away, never stand back on the ice, and crawl until you return to solid ice or ground.
These tips will help you and the people you are with during this holiday season be safe and have fun in the outdoors. Still, perhaps the best advice one could have for outdoor safety is to always be mindful of your surroundings and respect the environment around you.