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Corps: Water safety a year-round concern
Lake Lanier

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is urging the public to use safety and caution for those planning to be on or around the water throughout the year.

A news release from the federal agency stated that lifejackets should be worn at all times by everyone in a boat, including those who are hunting waterfowl hunting or fishing. Statistics show that 90 percent of those who drown were not wearing a lifejacket, and nearly two-thirds didn’t plant to be in the water.

Those who plan to be outdoors should dress appropriately for the water temperature, not the air temperature, the release stated. 

“You could find yourself capsized or thrown from a boat. You could be in cold water and unable to swim because in a short amount of time your muscles will get cold and you will lose the ability to rescue yourself,” the release stated.

Many suspected drowning victims actually die from cold water immersion instead of hypothermia, which is a condition in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Violent shivering develops, which may give way to confusion and a loss of body movement.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Operations Center for Water Safety advised that the danger to individuals immersed in cold water increases as water temperature decreases below normal body temperature.

Cold-water immersion includes four stages: cold shock, swimming failure, hypothermia and post-rescue collapse. Most cold-water drownings are attributed to the first two stages.

Those who do accidentally fall into cold water should remember the 1-10-1 rule, according to the news release.

“Cold shock will pass in about one minute. This is an initial deep and sudden gasp followed by hyperventilation. During this time, concentrate on not panicking and getting breathing under control. Over the next 10 minutes, you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs. 

During this time, concentrate on self-rescue initially, and if that isn’t possible, prepare to have a way to keep your airway clear to breathe and wait for rescue. Even in ice water it could take about one hour before becoming unconscious due to hypothermia.”

For these reasons, the release stated, lifejackets should be warn at all times.

In addition to wearing a life jacket, there are certain things one can do to delay hypothermia.

The Heat Escape Lessening (HELP) and Huddle Positions help conserve body heat. If alone in cold water pull knees up to the chest and wrap arms around knees. If with other people huddle together as close as possible and wrap your arms around each other. 

In sum, it is important for all boaters to wear a life jacket, avoid boating alone, tell someone where you are going and when you will return, check the capacity plate and don’t overload your boat, dress for the water temperature, and know how to minimize heat loss if ending up in the water.