The best defense against cold water immersion is to prevent vessel capsizing and falls overboard. In addition, wear layered clothing for insulation.
If you do fall into cold water, take the following steps to increase your chance of survival.
- Try to reboard your paddlecraft or anything else still floating. Get as much of your body out of the water as possible. Remember that you will start to lose strength if you stay in the water for more than a few minutes, so get yourself and everyone else out of the water as quickly as possible.
- If you cannot get out of the water quickly, focus on reducing heat loss.
- Stay as still as possible. Allow your life jacket or other flotation device to support you. Remember that you will be able to swim for only 3 to 30 minutes before losing muscle strength and control.
- Adopt a position to reduce heat loss. If alone, use the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP). If others are in the water with you, huddle together.
- Seek medical help immediately for victims of cold water immersion.