Coast Guard warns swimmers, boaters about cold water temps and risk of hypothermia

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(Courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard)

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Although the temperatures are much warmer than average this December, the Coast Guard wants to warn swimmers and boaters that the water will still be very cold.

Although the air will be over 50 degrees, the water will be just around 40 degrees.

“Warm air temperatures can create a false sense of security for boaters,” said Mike Baron, recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District. “Cool water drains body heat up to 25 times faster than cool air, which is why we encourage boaters to always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature.”

Swimmers have the greatest risk. Paddlers have a higher risk than boaters because there is an increased chance of getting wet.

Here are a few additional safety tips from the Coast Guard:

*       Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and dress for the lake temperature. A life jacket allows a person to float with a minimum of energy expended and allows the person to assume the Heat Escape Lessening Position (H.E.L.P.) – bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.    
*       Never go out on the water alone. Use the buddy system.
*       Always check and monitor the marine weather forecast before and during any trip out onto the lakes.
*       Carry a registered personal locator beacon in addition to a marine radio to alert the Coast Guard and local safety agencies of potential distress. Consider a waterproof hand-held model that can be worn.
*       Carry all required and recommended safety gear, such as visual distress signals and a sound-producing device. Carry your visual distress signal and whistle in the pocket of your life jacket so they’re close at hand in an emergency.
*       Always tell family or friends where you are going and when you expect to be back – and stick to the plan or notify them when plans have changed.

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