Four Coquitlam SAR members recently participated in a hypothermia workshop. The class was taught by Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, professor of thermophysiology at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Giesbrecht is a ground-breaking expert in cold research and education. So we were all pretty excited!
We learned about the physiological effects of cold water immersion and submersion. Typical scenarios are breaking through ice or capsizing a boat. Contrary to popular belief it actually takes 30+ minutes for hypothermia to set in!
Dr. Giesbrecht developed the “1-10-1 Principle”. This helps you remember the phases of cold water immersion:
- 1 minute to control your breathing
- 10 minutes of useful muscle movement
- 1 hour before losing consciousness due to hypothermia
During all phases a PFD will greatly increase your chance of survival. Clothing will also help greatly by providing insulation.
Another important thing we learned was that you usually have time: both as the subject and as the responder. Control your breathing. Get over the panic. Make a plan. Take the time to do things right. You will be ok. We heard many examples where quick reactions escalated a cold-water or hypothermia emergency. Many deaths could have been avoided.
The second part of the course was practical. Two brave volunteers immersed themselves in the Fraser River. The water temperature was 8°C. So they were careful to go slowly and not jump in. After several minutes we helped them back out. We packaged them and applied heat treatment to warm them back up. Everything went smoothly!
This was a very interesting and worthwhile course for us. We will be sure to use the techniques and principles in our own responses!
We also enjoyed working together with all the other emergency workers at the course. There were members from the Coast Guard, medical army personnel, and of course other SAR volunteers. This is always a great chance to learn from others’ experiences.
More information on Dr. Giesbrecht’s “Cold Water Boot Camp”: http://www.coldwaterbootcamp.com