Looks can be deceiving. Most of Kananaskis Country’s waterways are very cold, even mid-summer. Falling into cold water causes death by drowning, year after year. To ensure your safety and the safety of others while visiting bodies of water, remember to:
- Wear a lifejacket. Lifejackets help keep you warm and may save your life.
- Dress appropriately for comfort and to help prevent hypothermia. Consider layering with synthetic materials, similar to hiking. Avoid cotton.
- Wear a paddling jacket or shirt with neck and arm cuffs that seal. Neoprene layers are excellent.
- Do not overload your boat.
- Avoid situations where you may fall overboard.
1-10-1 Rule for Cold Water
Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, from the University of Manitoba, coined the phrase 1-10-1 Principle to describe the three critical phases of cold water immersion.
- 1 minute to get breathing under control
- Once immersed, your body will panic due to the severe cold. You may experience a sudden gasp, followed by hyperventilation.
- It is critical to keep your airway clear. Try to remain calm, focus and get your breathing under control.
- Wearing a lifejacket is critical to keep you afloat and breathing.
- 10 minutes of meaningful body movement
- In the following 10 minutes, you'll slowly lose the use of your extremities starting with fingers and toes. During this period, you'll lose the ability to continue swimming.
- Focus on self-rescue.
- If self-rescue is not possible, concentrate on establishing a way to keep your airway clear. Have a good position to maintain body heat and wait for rescue.
- If your watercraft floats, it is much easier for rescue personnel to see than you on the water alone.
- 1 hour before unconsciousness sets in due to hypothermia
- Understanding hypothermia, knowing techniques to delay it, as well as tips for self-rescue and calling for help will improve your chances of survival.
- Results from lowering the core body temperature, which drops nearly 25 percent faster in water
- Affects your mental state and the use of extremities
- Is influenced by: water immersion, cold temperatures, fatigue, poor health, poor hydration and poor nutrition
Cold Water Survival
If you are immersed in cold water with no imminent rescue possible, remember these life-saving tips:
- Stay calm and try to be still. Moving increases heat loss in the water.
- Signalling could attract attention - whistles, flares or even waving clothing or a paddle. Be ready to use signals to increase your chance of being seen.
- Keep your body compact (the fetal position) as it decreases the rate of heat loss.
- If you are with others in the water, form a circle facing one another and use the fetal position.
- Consider staying with your watercraft, unless you are sure you can swim to safety. Your watercraft can be used to get part of your body out of the water and is much more visible to rescue personnel.
- Stay mentally strong and fight for survival.
Check Cold Water Boot Camp for additional information on prevention, lifejackets and learning resources.