MSHP discusses cold weather water safety

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri State Highway Patrol said to take extra caution around the state's lakes, rivers and ponds. In a recent MSHP news release, the agency revealed information that could potentially save lives.

When a person is submerged in cold water, hypothermia and cold shock could be concerns.

Cold shock could cause heart rate and blood pressure to increase, which can result in cardiac arrest. Cold shock can also cause a gasping reflex, and in effect people will inhale water instead of air, which causes drowning.

Hypothermia causes the body to lose its heat 25 times faster in water, which makes drowing a concern. MSHP said hypothermia can rob the body of the ability to perform its most basic tasks, so wearing a lifejacket is crucial.

If you wind up in cold water, get out of the water as quickly as possible, and put on dry clothes. In a situation where dry clothes aren't an option, stay in the wet clothes because they will still trap some body heat. MSHP also said warm drinks can help, and drinks with sugars can provide people with a quick burst of energy. 

MSHP cautions dock owners about attempting to remove snow and ice from their docks during inclement weather. The extra weight of snow and ice can cause structures to collapse.

Avoid ice covered ponds because it is impossible to judge the strength of ice by its appearance. MSHP advises would-be rescuers to refrain from saving others that have fallen through ice.  A local fire department should have the quickest response time, the proper equipment, and training to handle ice emergencies.

MSHP said if you find yourself needing to be rescued from an ice covered waterway, follow these techniques:

  • Don't panic
  • Face the direction you came from and spread your arms out on the unbroken ice
  • Kick your feet and try to pull yourself onto the ice
  • Once out of the water, do not attempt to stand
  • Roll away from the hole then crawl across the ice back to solid land

MSHP said to utiilze a buddy system and avoid alcohol when near cold water.