Learn how to do the HELP and Huddle positions for cold water survival. Being immersed in cold water will sap your breath and energy quicker than normal. Panicking will make things worse. You must relax and get out. Concentrate on deep breathing to calm your mind and body.
The information in this post is from the book “Swim Workouts and Water Rescue Skills” by Sam Fury.
HELP and Huddle Positions for Cold Water Survival
If you cannot get on dry land you have to do whatever you can to keep your body heat until help arrives.
- Button or zip up your clothes and keep them on
- Don’t use up energy swimming unless you have a dry place to swim to
- Get as much of yourself out of the water as possible
- Use the H.E.L.P. or Huddle position
Once you get out of the water it is important to remove all your wet clothing, dry yourself off, and get warm. Watch yourself and others for signs of hypothermia and treat as necessary.
H.E.L.P. is an acronym for the Heat Escape Lessening Posture. It is the position to adopt when you are alone in the water and want to conserve your body heat.
The general idea of H.E.L.P. is to protect your major areas of heat loss, i.e., armpits, groin, head, neck, and rib cage.
When you are wearing a life-jacket, keep your head out of the water and lean back on it. Fold your arms and hug your jacket close to your body.
Cross your lower legs and bring your knees as high on your chest as you can.
If you do not have a life jacket, do your best to get as close to H.E.L.P. as possible.
The huddle position is H.E.L.P. for groups of people (2+). Huddling together in a group has benefits such as:
- Lessen loss of body heat
- Increase morale
- Be easier to spot for rescuers
- Stronger swimmers can aid weaker ones
To adopt the huddle position form a ring and group together. Everyone groups together as close as possible. Use your arms and legs to wrap around each other. Place those in need (such as children) in the middle.
Photo Credit: Christine Cabalo.
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