The importance of protective clothing in cold water survival was discussed. Cold water survival involved the avoidance of drowning and dealing with hypothermia. Basically, for avoiding hypothermia, the larger and fatter the person, the longer was the survival time. Also, the rougher the seas, the faster the cooling. Protective clothing bore a major impact on ability to survive. Flotation devices were critical, but did not guarantee survival. In addition, the ability to hold one's breath, and to avoid panic, as well as the degree of physical fitness, and the ability to move with mouth and nose above water were critical survival skills. Data from the use of 20 different protective suits (dry, insulated suits, wet suits, uninsulated suits, and an orally inflated life raft) were discussed. Tests were conducted in both calm and rough waters. Results showed that buoyancy alone was not adequate to stay afloat, and that it was necessary to fight to keep the head afloat. Problems with each suit type, and survival decisions involved were discussed. The author concludes that the criterion of survival time is the time taken for core temperature to drop to 34 degrees-C (the temperature at which a person is considered unable to activate survival equipment, use radios or signaling devices), time taken to become unconscious, or the time taken for body temperature to drop to the point of causing cardiac arrest. Thus, individuals with increased body fat survive longer.
Proceedings of the National Fishing Industry Safety and Health Workshop, Anchorage, Alaska, October 9-11, 1992