1. Cold water shock (lasts 2–3 minutes) 

• You could drown from automatic gasping and hyperventilation. It only takes 1.5l of fluid to drown; a single gasp can easily take in 2l.   

• You could suffer a cardiac arrest or a stroke.

To survive, try to stay calm and keep as still as you can – movement in water accelerates loss of body heat. Then you’ll soon regain breathing control. 

2. Muscles and peripheral nerves cooling (lasts up to 30 minutes)

• You’ll lose the use of your hands, so you can’t fire flares or operate a hand-held VHF any more.

• You’ll shiver intensely and have cramps. Within 10-20 minutes, even capable swimmers start to struggle. 

Act quickly – once the gasping stops, call for help before you lose the use of your hands. 

3. Deep body cooling (lasts 30+ minutes)

• Hypothermia starts to set in.

• You’ll become incapacitated.

• Your heart could stop.

Only a lifejacket (with crotch straps) will keep your head above water.

4. Rescue

• If you’ve called for help, rescuers will be on their way.

Keep fighting for survival. Don’t relax, even when you’re being helped by rescuers.