WYOMING – First responders around the region are reminding recreators to be mindful of the dangers of cold water.
Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation are just a couple of the organizations trying to get the word out: Don’t be mislead by pleasant weather and comfortable air temps. Even though temperatures are warming up nicely, the water in most reservoirs and the Snake River is very cold from winter runoff. Water temps range from 40 to 50 degrees.
These cold water conditions can quickly overcome one’s ability to swim and self-rescue in an emergency.
“One of the challenges is that higher air temperatures in the spring can cause a false sense of security for boaters,” says David Dahms, Idaho’s boating law administrator. “When it is 80 degrees and sunny outside it is hard to imagine the potential dangers of cold water when you are boating, fishing or paddling. However, water temperatures [are cold enough to] lead to a life-threatening situation if a person accidentally falls overboard.”
When a person falls into cold water the initial shock will cause you to gasp for air. It literally takes your breath away and the ability to hold your breath is almost impossible. Without a life jacket to keep you afloat a person that accidentally falls into cold water may drown within minutes.
Experts at the Cold Water Boot Camp in Canada teach the 1-10-1 rule. You have one minute to get your breathing under control after submersion in cold water. If you don’t, the panic alone will cause you to drown.
The next 10 minutes are equally crucial. This is your only time to self-rescue. Motor skills deteriorate rapidly after about 10 minutes. Fingers, even arms and legs, will become useless. Save yourself within 10 minutes if you can. If not, make preparations to keep your airway clear because unconsciousness is next after one hour in cold water due to hypothermia.
Experts say you can give yourself the best chance of survival by wearing a personal floatation device at all times when navigating the waterways. Boating accidents can happen very quickly. You likely won’t have time to put on a life jacket when you need it. Be prepared beforehand, know your equipment, and help others develop safe boating practices so you can have the best chance of survival if something bad happens.