NIOSH Video Highlights the Use of Personal Flotation Devices in Cold Water Survival in Alaska

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) has just released a new safety video that recounts the 2010 sinking of
the salmon setnet skiff Paul Revere in Alaskan waters and how the crew survived
through the use of personal flotation devices (PFDs). The crew attributes their
survival to the use of inflatable PFDs that kept them above the waves without
expending energy.
The new video, Paul
Revere: A Story of Survival in Bristol Bay
, includes interviews with the
skiff’s skipper, Shannon Ford, and her crewman, Don Ward, where they recount
the events of 2010 that led to their being thrown into the cold waters of
Bristol Bay, Alaska while setting their fishing gear for the upcoming season.
Shannon and her crew survived over 2 hours in the water, much longer than most
people think is possible in Alaska.
The 10-minute video challenges the common perception that
falling into cold water is an instant death sentence. While it is true that
cold water immersion can lead to death in minutes with the onset of swimming
failure (a condition where the movement of the arms and legs can no longer be
controlled and coordinated resulting in drowning), death from hypothermia takes
hours. A PFD eliminates the need to tread water and can insulate the body,
slowing the onset of hypothermia. With the help of PFDs, the crew was able to
conserve energy for getting to shore, rather than having to expend energy to
Changing perceptions and raising awareness of the existence
of comfortable and easy-to-use PFDs can help reduce the number of man overboard
fatalities in commercial fishing. Between 2000 and 2012, 191 commercial
fishermen died in man overboard accidents. Only one of these was wearing a PFD
when they went into the water. NIOSH hopes that sharing Shannon’s story will
encourage other commercial fishermen to find comfortable PFDs and wear them
while working on deck. With the right equipment, commercial fishing fatalities
from cold water immersion are preventable; personal flotation devices prevent
fishermen deaths.

The story of the Paul Revere is now available and streaming
on the NIOSH YouTube Channel: .
It is also highlighted on the NIOSH Fishing Topic Page:
read more about the Paul Revere story, visit the NIOSH Science Blog: