It’s April in Buffalo and the ice is finally clear from our surrounding lakes and rivers. Warm spring days glazed with sunshine and glorious blue skies are attracting boaters to a record breaking start to the season. Unfortunately with the recent spurts of snow, water temperatures are still in the 30’s to low 40’s and submerging your body in the freezing water can result in hypothermia.

Falling overboard or sinking can create lasting effects on your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body experiences dangerously low body temperatures. When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs do not work properly. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.

Protect Yourself From Cold Water Immersion

If you’re alone:

  1. Hold your knees up and close to body.
  2. Keep as much of your body out of the water as possible. Your head the most heat as possible out of water.
  3. Keep arms folded across your chest.

If you’re with others:

  1. Use the huddle position and come together in a tight circle.
  2. Stay huddled together by keeping your arms locked around each other’s backs and sides touching.
  3. If there are small children, place them in the middle.

Know the Symptoms of Hypothermia

When hit with dangerously cold water, your body will attempt to defend itself by keeping warm. These symptoms may happen gradually. Be aware of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Continuous shivering
  • Decreased attention span
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Hallucinations
  • Low energy or progressive loss of consciousness
  • Increasingly numb hands and feet
  • Confused behavior

Respect Your PFD Like Your Life Depends On It

Make sure to wear a United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved personal flotation device (PFD) and layers of clothing to act as insulation in case you unintentionally end up in the water. Although PFD’s should be worn at all times while enjoying your day on the water, children under the age of 12 aboard pleasure vessels less than 65 feet (unless in a totally enclosed cabin) are required by New York State law to wear a PFD at all times.  But did you also know? Anyone aboard pleasure vessels less than 21 feet including fishing, rowboats, canoes, and kayaks must also wear a PFD between November 1st and May 1st
Don’t let the chill of the water keep you from doing what you love. Contact our Marine Insurance Division for a free copy of the NYS Boater’s Guide Handbook

Written By: Patsy Cunningham, CIC, CPCU, VP Commercial Marine

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