Respect The Water – UK experts at the RNLI Give Advice On Cold Water Shock


Written by Sarah Hampson

ALG Safety are exclusive distributors of Ruth Lee Training Manikins in Canada. Contact us on 905-517-7406
29 April 2021

In the height of summer – the glisten of sunshine sparkling on the water can be very tempting….

But open water is cold. When suddenly exposed to low temperatures (such as when you leap into a river, lake or sea) your body reacts instinctively,  experiencing what is known as ‘Cold Water Shock’.


Coldwater shock is a natural set of responses caused by the rapid cooling of the skin.

Blood vessels in your skin close, which leads to an increase in the resistance of blood flow. Next, your heart rate quickens meaning that your heart must work even harder, causing blood pressure to rise. In severe reactions, Cold Water Shock can cause a heart attack – even if you are relatively young and healthy.

Another important effect to consider when dealing with cold water shock is a ‘gasp’ reaction. We have all felt it when tentatively testing the water on holiday – the cold water causes us to gasp for breath. It is an involuntary reaction and if you’re underwater when this happens…well, you don’t need us to tell you what the consequence could be!

Even if your head is above water, your breathing rate changes uncontrollably and these symptoms can cause a panic attack, adding to the potential for disaster.

Within a couple of minutes, hands, feet, legs and arms rapidly cool, further restricting blood flow. Even strong swimmers can flounder in this situation as it will lead to decreasing muscle strength and a reduced control of our body movements.

Cold Water Shock really is a killer.


The RNLI is a UK rescue organisation which reliant largely on volunteers. They promote a #RespectTheWater campaign and we would encourage anyone involved in water rescue (or even those who are not!) to share this campaign far and wide.

You can learn more about this great safety initiative by visiting – they have a great animated ‘step-by-step’ guide of what to do if you find yourself suddenly submerged.

You can also watch and share this great video:

Please do share this advice with your family and friends, young and old. It is not just children who get into trouble.


We are proud to work with many rescue organisations across Canada that take part in regular training to ensure they have the best water rescue skills, and to ensure that all of their teams stay safe in a cold water rescue situation.

It makes sense to use training manikins in cold water rescue training scenarios. We know cold water is dangerous – why risk a living person in a rescue training scenario?

The obvious choice for water rescue teams is the Man Overboard manikin. Well known in the industry, it is a firm favourite due to its rugged, hard-wearing construction. Favoured by Navy teams worldwide you can be sure that this is the ideal manikin for cold water training.

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