To extend your survival time in water as much as possible, you must do everything you can to conserve energy and body heat. Wearing a PFD or lifejacket delays the onset of hypothermia. The PFD helps insulate the body. In addition, energy is lost trying to stay afloat without it.
REMEMBER: Always wear a PFD or Lifejacket. Boaters often drown from cold incapacitation (swimming failure) long before hypothermia gets a chance to set in.
While wearing a PFD or lifejacket, some positions can help persons overboard to survive longer in cold water:
- If alone, climb onto a nearby floating object to get at least part of your body out of the water;
- If you cannot get out of the water and you are alone, adopt the Heat Escape Lessening Position (H.E.L.P.) by crossing your arms tightly across your chest and then drawing the knees up close; and
- If you cannot get out of the water and you are in a group, huddle with the other persons by getting the sides of everyone’s chest close together, with arms around the mid to lower back, and legs intertwined.
If you have a warning that your boat may sink, protect yourself from the cold by wearing multiple light layers of
dry clothing and a water- or wind-proof outer layer under a lifejacket or PFD.
Extra protection from hypothermia includes:
- Floater or survival suits (full nose-to-toes);
- Dry suits (to be used with a lifejacket or PFD and a thermal liner);
- Wet suits (to be used with a lifejacket or PFD – trap and heat water against the body); and
- Immersion suits (to be used in extreme conditions when abandoning a vessel).