DEEP: DEEP Alerts Boaters to Dangers of Hypothermia-Cold Waters of Early Spring Pose Risks

2016 Press Release

April 7, 2016
DEEP Alerts Boaters to Dangers of Hypothermia-
Cold Waters of Early Spring Pose Risks
Life jackets are key to survival

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) reminds all boaters that even though the air temperatures are rising, the State’s waters are still in the mid to upper 40’s meaning sudden immersion into the water this cold can cause serious injury or death due to the shock of being immersed or from hypothermia for longer exposure.
“Opening day of the 2016 trout season is this Saturday (April 9th) and fishermen and boaters should not be put off by cold water,” said DEEP Boating Division Director Eleanor Mariani.  “People out on our rivers and lakes must realize, however, that cold water creates a hostile environment. At this time of year, it is more important than ever to take proper safety precautions to minimize the chances of going into the water accidently and to be prepared for immersion if you do.”
Capsizing or falling overboard is always risky but doing so in cold water greatly increases the risk of dying from drowning or cardiac arrest. Cold water is generally considered water less than 68°F. Swimming generally becomes impossible within 30 minutes in these kind of water temperatures.  In Connecticut waters, temperatures usually don’t exceed 68°F before early June.  When submerged in cold water your body loses heat 25 times faster than it will in the air. This is why it is important to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
DEEP recommends wearing your life jacket and being properly dressed.  Doing both provides additional time to get help by using a cell phone or VHF radio, or trying to pull yourself out of the water. Without a life jacket it may be impossible to keep your head out of the water and keep your airway clear.
For those paddling, riding personal watercraft or using craft that are typically less stable, like small sailboats, the best way to increase survival time is to wear a life jacket, and either a drysuit or wetsuit. 
For all other boaters out on the water this time of year, DEEP recommends:
  • Avoid wearing cotton
  • Wear a hat (fleeced-lined is recommended)
  • Dress in layers using synthetic fabrics such as polyester fleece
  • Wear a life jacket.
  • Bring a waterproof jacket and spare dry clothing in a sealed dry bag.
Between 2006 and 2015, 74 people in Connecticut were treated for hypothermia as a result of a boating accident.  Of these cases, 57 injuries occurred during cold water months October through May.
Captain Ryan Healy, of DEEP’s Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police, also reminds boaters that they are legally required to wear a USCG approved life jacket in a manually propelled vessel – such as a kayak or canoe - through May 31.
DEEP reminds all boaters that by law, every vessel must have a proper fitting life jacket for every person aboard, and that children 12 and under must be wearing a life jacket at all times while underway, unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
 To see the effects of cold water immersion and the benefits of wearing a life jacket, access the Cold Water Boot Camp video at:

Before heading out:
  • Dress for the water temperature especially when on small boats - temperatures in Connecticut waters are only in the mid to upper 40s. Ending up in the water when our body temperature is 98.6 degrees can be a huge shock. Someone that falls in the water quickly loses their ability to function. Cold waters also invoke an involuntary gasp reflex a number one cause of drowning. This is why life jackets are necessary.
  • Double check the condition of all water and fuel hoses and their connections.  Accidents involving the sinking of a boat or fires onboard are generally a Spring-time occurrence. With a little vigilance, these accidents can be prevented. After a winter season with snow and ice, it’s important to inspect the fittings.
  • File a Float Plan. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Make sure you let the person know you are home safely.
  • Request an “If Found” sticker from the DEEP Boating Division ( and place it on your paddle craft. These stickers identify the owner and gives quick contact information to Search and Rescue responders to determine if a true emergency exists, prevents unnecessary searches, and enables the paddle craft to be returned to its rightful owner.
  • Wear Your Life jacket! - Connecticut joins the National Safe Boating Campaign in its efforts to promote wearing a life jacket. Statistics show that almost three-quarters of the people that died in boating accidents between 2008 and 2012 drowned. Of those, 90% were not wearing a life jacket.  In 2015 there were six fatalities due to drowning. Not one was wearing a life jacket. Life jackets are more comfortable and lightweight than ever. Putting one on before heading out could save your life, so Wear It Connecticut!
“Don’t let a fun day of outdoor recreating become a fatal boating statistic, please wear a life jacket,” said Mariani.