Cold Immersion Survival



The best-case scenario for Cold Water Immersion is to reduce or prevent the risk.

If you are boating in cold water do not overload your vessel, avoid situations where you might fall overboard, and make sure everyone is wearing a lifejacket to protect in the case of an unexpected immersion.

Should you be immersed in cold water while wearing a PFD or lifejacket, you can increase your survival time by taking the following actions:

  • adopt the "heat escape lessening position" (H.E.L.P) by crossing arms tightly against the chest and by drawing knees up close to the chest.


  • climb onto a nearby floating object to get as much of the body out of or above the water.


  • if in a group, "huddle" with other persons by getting the sides of everyone's chest close together with arms around mid to lower back and legs intertwined.

People who tread water lose heat about 30% faster than people holding still while wearing a PFD.

Huddling with one or more other people will reduce heat loss rates by about a third, especially if chest to chest contact is maintained.

Make every effort to get out of the water. Full immersion in cold water produces amuch faster rate of cooling.

Once immersed, swimming is a dangerous choice to make. An average person who can ordinarily swim well probably will not be able to swim more than 1 kilometer in 10°C (50°F) water on a calm day.


The following items may provide additional protection from the threat of hypothermia.

  • dry suit.
  • wet suit.
  • immersion suit.
  • survival suit.
  • exposure coverall.
  • multiple light layers of dry clothing.
  • water or wind proof outer layer.