Coast Guard: Preparation the key to survival in cold water

Posted at 3:29 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 17:54:42-05

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - As water temperatures in the region drop, the Coast Guard is working to make sure their crews and people in the community are prepared.

Crews with Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City say they train around the year to be ready in case they need to make water rescues.

Chief David Downham, an aviation survival specialist, says they typically have to make several cold water rescues every year.

"We take cold water very seriously," said Downham. "In the mid-Atlantic, the water around here gets super cold real quick. The Chesapeake Bay and inside the Outer Banks, the water is shallow there, so the cold air really chills it out real fast."

Even if it feels warm outside, the water can be much colder.

"Around here sometimes it can be 70 degrees air temp, but the water is still really cold, and your body does not react well once you’re submerged in that water, so for us it’s all about preparation and being prepared for water temps and not air temps," said Downham.

Since time is of the essence in cold water rescues, they also need boaters to be prepared.

Downham says having survival equipment and knowing how to use it is crucial.

"It’s a completely different scene if I get there and I get in the water and I find survivors in survival suits and life jackets in a life raft; it’s a much easier day for everyone involved," said Downham.

An easy way to make sure you're prepared is to use the Coast Guard app.

It has a checklist of all the things you should have and do before heading out on the water.

You can find the app by clicking here.