Cold weather water rescues have Seattle PD urging safety

KING 5's Alex Rozier reports.

SEATTLE -- Seattle police are urging safety on the water after several water rescues in recent weeks.

Many people wouldn't consider late fall or winter a time to get out on the water. But in Seattle, hundreds still go out every day.

“With the wintertime. not only are the water temperatures cold, and the air temperature is cold, but the wind comes about," Officer Reuben Omelanchuk said. "Sometimes kayakers still think it’s going to be a great day out on the water whether it’s out on Alki or Discovery Park and the winds change and it keeps taking them out to sea itself."

Omelanchuk and the Seattle Police Harbor Unit patrol 220 miles in the city limits alone, between fresh water and salt water. They are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They collaborate with the Seattle Fire Department on rescues.

There are the obvious things to remember like wearing a life jacket and, in most situations, a wetsuit. But police want you to be aware of some key time frames if you experience a water emergency in the winter.

“A good rule of thumb, usually, is that you have one minute to get control of your breath and that will mitigate hyperventilation. Then you have about 10 minutes before you begin losing dexterity -- your fingers, your feet -- and that will, of course, limit your ability to stay afloat if you are not wearing a personal floatation device,” Omelanchuk said.

Also, you have about one hour before serious injury or death can occur.

Police also want to remind you that if your kayak or canoe flips over, remain with it if you can.

They also say it is crucial to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.

“Be prepared the worst whether it’s weather or incapacitation of your vessel where you are stranded,” Omelanchuk said. “Take food. Take lights, a sound producing device, and dress for the weather that is appropriate.”

Copyright 2016 KING


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