In What’s Your H2O (Safety) IQ?, water safety expert witness Dr. David Smith, Commander, USCG (RET) writes:
The following 20 questions were the basis of a key address to the First International Boating and Water Safety Summit, April 18-25, 1997 in San Diego, California. The Summit was sponsored by the National Water Safety Council and The National Safe Boating Council. This article is taken from the proceedings of the Summit. The article has been repeatedly updated to reflect current aquatic accident statistics. Human physiology, by contrast, has not been known to change in the last 10,000 decades.
How well can you answer these twenty boating and water safety questions:
11. [a] How fast does an immersed body lose heat to water?
Ans. Up to 25 times as fast as to air of the same temperature.
[b] How fast does a submerged body lose heat?
Ans. The area above the collar loses about 40% of the body’s heat. If the head is submerged, heat loss rates increase to at least 25 times that of similar air temperatures and higher.
[c] What is the difference in heat loss rate between still and moving water?
Ans. 10 times as fast in moving water.
12. What are your primary heat loss areas and how should you protect them?
Ans. Head and neck, armpits and sides, groin. Do H.E.L.P. if alone, huddle if with others. *
[b] What temperature of water is cold?
Ans. Depending on a number of variables having to do with size,
fitness, nutrition, clothing, sobriety, will to live, general health level, alcohol etc. -water less than body temperature may be lethal.
13. If an unconscious person wearing heavy clothing and a Type I or II PFD falls face forward into water, will the PFD turn them to an upright, head out of the water position?
Ans. Probably not. Air trapped in multiple clothing layers and boots may counter PFD turning moment. Moral: Try your PFD in the water in types of situations where you would be likely to use it. On the job training while drowning is a very poor form of education
14. What is torso reflex?
Ans. Torso reflex or inhalation response occurs when an unsuspecting, untrained person is suddenly plunged into [relatively] cold water. Immediate exposure to cold environments automatically results in hyperventilation in order to increase metabolism. If a person’s head/mouth is submerged when uncontrollably gasping they will drown. Basic protection: conditioning yourself and others to always breathe before water entry and covering your mouth on the way in.
15. What operational characteristic of Personal Water Craft frequently confuses inexperienced operators, thereby leading to potentially serious collision situations?
Ans. You must maintain throttle to turn the craft. Releasing the throttle and then turning causes a PWC to continue in its original direction. This is counter-intuitive when compared to our conditioning in breaking and turning to avoid a collision when driving an auto.
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