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For Immediate Release
April 19, 2011
Contact: Sgt. Josh Dirth, NH Marine Patrol, 603-293-2037
Jane Vachon, NH Fish and Game Department, 603-271-3211

Marine Patrol Warns Of Cold Water Danger

Gilford, NH – Whether you're one of the many salmon fishermen eager for a taut line or a paddler looking for the next challenging class of white water, the eagerness citizens and visitors share is apparent. The Marine Patrol's message to all waterborne sports enthusiasts though is the same, wear a life jacket!

Lake Winnipesaukee, the state's largest lake is at approximately 39 degrees, giving someone as little as fifteen minutes before they succumb to exhaustion or unconsciousness. "These frigid water temperatures are fairly consistent across the state with sections of ice still present on many of them," says Sergeant Joshua Dirth of the New Hampshire Marine Patrol.

As if the typical spring high water and increased currents are not treacherous enough, cold water immersion is possibly the most dangerous culprit. This causes a person to lose body heat twenty-five times faster then cold air alone. Mario Vittone, a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer states "It is impossible to die from hypothermia in cold water unless you are wearing an approved floatation device, because without floatation – you won't live long enough to become hypothermic, you will most assuredly drown (Wilson, "Life Jackets)."

The well documented, 1-10-1 Principle, developed by Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht breaks cold water immersion into three categories; Cold Shock, Cold Incapacitation and Hypothermia.

  • 1 – Cold Shock: Hyperventilation and gasping for air can cause breathing to accelerate as much as 1000% more then normal. All efforts must be made not to panic and keeping your airway clear as drowning can result. After approximately one minute the cold shock will pass.

  • 10 – Cold Incapacitation: Over the next 10 minutes fine and gross motor skills including the ability to swim will rapidly deteriorate. A person should make every effort to rescue themselves, if this is not feasible then attempts to get as much of their body out of the water as possible, keeping their airway clear to await rescue.

  • 1 – Hypothermia: After about an hour the body will continue to cool and may lead to hypothermia. This exists when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees and can be exacerbated by exposure to both water and air temperatures. Hypothermic symptoms manifest themselves in many ways from confusion to unconsciousness that may lead to death.

Should you enter the water keep as much of your clothing on as possible, this will help trap heat and air pockets will help keep you afloat. Avoid excess movement, this reduces energy and expedites the loss of body heat. If you can not get your body out of the water, attempt to achieve the HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Posture) position by bringing your knees to your chest; this helps to retain heat around the groin, head/neck and ribcage/armpits. If you are in the water with other people, huddle together with your arms around their shoulders (Boat New Hampshire).

Officers of the NH Marine Patrol are required to wear a life jacket whenever underway. "It becomes a part of your uniform and provides piece of mind like buckling your seatbelt. It just would not feel right putting the boat in gear without having it on" says Sergeant Dirth of the policy that has been in effect since the 1980"s for night officers and 2001 for everyone.

Regardless of if you're planning on being on or around the water staying as dry and warm as possible are vitally important. Catastrophes are never planned, help minimize tribulations by assessing the risks of your activity, file a float plan, have ways to communicate including VHF radio, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), flares, whistles, cell phones and wearing your life jacket, it just may save your life.

New Hampshire Department of Safety | 33 Hazen Drive | Concord, NH 03305
TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964
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