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Hypothermia: The cold killer

By Jay Townsend

Water temperatures have dropped well below the normal warm bathwater temps you’d expect on a hot summer day in the south. This time of year most people aren’t expecting to get wet when they visit local lakes and rivers.

Hypothermia: The cold killer

“You still need a plan,” said Kevin McDaniels, Chief of Operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District. “You have to expect the unexpected and be prepared to get wet.”

Accidentally falling in the water could prove to be fatal if boaters are unprepared. Corps officials believe this is one of the main reasons you should always wear a life jacket when on our around water.

“Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it,” said David Moore, Little Rock District Water Safety Coordinator.

Boaters should dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Cold-water immersion causes many boating-related fatalities. It follows four stages: cold shock, swimming failure, hypothermia and post-rescue collapse. Most cold-water drowning fatalities are attributed to the first two stages.

“If you fall in cold water without a life jacket the combination of shock and fatigue are going to play a huge factor in whether you survive or not.” Moore said.

Water safety

The initial shock following an expected submergence in cold water causes panic and confusion followed by heavy breathing that can lead to hyperventilation. Many people faint and drown before they are able to calm down.

McDaniels also warns that alcohol consumption, age and physical fitness are going to come into play if you’re a good distance from the shoreline or your vessel.

If you are able to get out of the water you’re going to need warm clothes a blanket or heat source to get warm.

“This is when planning for the unexpected could save your life,” McDaniels said. “Having a change of clothes or emergency blanket in your vessel could be your best defense against the lingering effects of hypothermia.”

Getting out of the wind and wet clothing are very important during this time.

“If you don’t have a way to dry off and get warm recovery will be very difficult,” Moore said.

Corps officials are asking everyone to take a few extra minutes before you leave home to think about a cold water plan and the effects of falling in frigid water. Make sure you’re wearing a life jacket and the appropriate clothing and have a backup blanket or heat source to get warm.

Always file a float plan with someone before you leave. The assurance of someone knowing where you’re going might keep you from panicking if you’re in the water for a prolonged period of time.


Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Monuments Men

By Jay Townsend

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

When Deputy Counsel Ralph H. Allen from the Little Rock District, Corps of Engineers was 13-years-old his grandfather, Ralph Hammett, took him on a tour through Europe explaining what the United States and Allies endured during World War II. What Allen didn’t know as a boy is that his grandfather was an Army Monuments Man charged with preserving the history, art and architecture of the war torn country during the world’s darkest hours.

Ralph W. Hammett sits at a desk during World War II. At this time Hammett held the rank of Captain.
Ralph W. Hammett sits at a desk during World War II. At this time Hammett held the rank of Captain.

In the past year following the release of a Hollywood blockbuster featuring the Army’s famed treasure savers, Allen has had the chance to look at history through his late grandfather’s storied life.

On Oct. 22 2015 recently Allen attended a ceremony in our nation’s capital because his granddad and comrades received a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Monuments Men.
On Oct. 22 2015 recently Allen attended a ceremony in our nation’s capital because his granddad and comrades received a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Monuments Men.

On Oct. 22 2015 recently Allen attended a ceremony in our nation’s capital because his granddad and comrades received a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Monuments Men.

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

At the ceremony Allen had the opportunity to meet a few of the fine gentlemen his grandfather served with and their families.

View a previous article about Allen’s grandfather…


The official U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division publication