Dealing with Hypothermia – Survival in the water!

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Following on from last week’s newsletter, we now focus on surviving Hypothermia ‘in the water’!

No matter if you’re in cold water climates or in tropical areas and you find yourself in the water for any reason you may be alone or if you’re lucky with other people which can be a life saver!

Why a life saver?

It’s not because you have someone to talk to while waiting for help, although that’s part of the good side it’s all about maintaining body temperatures.

Alone in the water can reduce your survival time significantly depending on the water temperature, your condition and health, what you’re wearing, IF you’re wearing a lifejacket and a number of other factors.

But…when in a group your chances of survival increase dramatically but ONLY if you know what to do while you’re waiting for rescue.

Alone in the water

Finding yourself alone in the water can be a traumatic experience especially if you’ve gone overboard during the night.

The sight of the vessel steaming off into the night with the lights slowly getting smaller and smaller is enough to generate trauma in many people.

The major areas of heat loss are:

  1. Groin
  2. Head/neck
  3. Ribcage/armpits

If you’re wearing a lifejacket or have some other buoyant appliance the HELP position protects the body’s three major areas of heat loss.

What is HELP?

HELP stands for Heat Escape Lessening Posture. When you’re alone this position protects the body’s 3 major areas of heat loss. Wearing a lifejacket of PFD allows you to draw your knees to your chest and your arms to your sides.

To get into the HELP position all you need to do is…



  • Keep your legs together and raise your knees
  • Hold arms against tight against your chest
  • Keep your head out of the water

This position will give you’re the best chance of survival against hypothermia!

Two or more persons

My comment when delivering training is if you’re in the water with two or more people “share the love” and huddle because it improves your survival rate significantly!

Getting into a huddle is not only the best way to protect against hypothermia but it also gives you the best chance of being seen by rescuers.

How to HUDDLE!



  • Press the sides of the chests and lower torso together
  • Hug around the lifejackets
  • Intertwine legs as much as possible; and
  • Talk to one another!

Huddling with other people in the water lessens the loss of body heat and is good for morale and also allows rescuers to spot you easier.

Try not to separate as this will allow body temperatures to start falling quickly.

Consider this…

While progressive loss of body heat can result in loss of consciousness and death, many victims perish much sooner when immersed suddenly in cold water. Cold shock can affect some, causing cardiac failure within a few minutes.

Increased breathing rates can lead to dizziness, and the muscles cool rapidly. Immersion in cold water can cause such rapid loss of muscular function that in minutes a person loses the strength to board a raft or even operate a flare.

A fit person in these circumstances quickly loses the ability to make even basic movements to help keep themselves afloat. There have been many recorded cases of drowning in less than 10 minutes – long before the body core temperature has started to drop or the person is affected by hypothermia.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

It’s vital for all crew to know these 2 lifesaving positions and how they help in extending not only their survival time but also for others in the water with them.

If you’re working on a vessel that carries passengers it’s the responsibility of ALL crew members to know how to deal with emergency situations including hypothermia!


Next time you’re in the water try both of these lifesaving positions and get familiar with them so as if for any reason you find yourself in the water you know how to survive!

Also…it’s imperative that treatment be sought as soon as is possible for any person suffering from hypothermia as death may follow unless correct treatment is provided immediately!