5 Tips For Surviving In Cold Water

With temperatures in the Valley already climbing into the 90’s, California’s rivers and lakes have once again become popular destinations for those looking to cool off and escape the heat. ¬†But warm temperatures and cold water can be a dangerous combination.

Cold water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature.  This means the body immediately begins to lose heat, resulting in shivering and hyperventilation.  Your chances of surviving in these conditions can be greatly improved if you follow these 5 tips.

  1. ALWAYS USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM.  Never swim alone.  That second set of hands and eyes could be your life saver.
  2. AVOID ALCOHOL.  On average, 25% of adult drowning deaths involve alcohol.  Alcohol impairs judgement, encourages greater risk taking behavior, reduces coordination and impairs reaction time.
  3. WEAR A LIFEJACKET.  Life jackets only work if you wear them!  Most drowning victims had a life jacket available and chose not to wear it.
  4. DEFENSIVE SWIMMING IS A MUST.  Defensive swimming means positioning yourself on your back with your feet pointing downstream.  Do everything you can to get your head above water and be able to look at your toes.
  5. DITCH THE COTTON!  When wet, cotton is worthless as an insulator and heavy.  Seriously, no cotton.

More information on water safety can be found on the California Department of Water Resources website, www.water.ca.gov/recreation/safety/


Bryan May

Bryan May is Chief of Public Information & Media Relations for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Prior to joining Cal OES in 2017, Bryan spent 30 years as an Emmy award winning television anchor and reporter.

One thought on “5 Tips For Surviving In Cold Water

  • May 6, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    So, if cotton is a problem, are you suggesting that if I fall into cold water and am wearing cotton that I remove my clothing?


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