The following are the best swimming strokes during a survival situation:

  • Dog paddle. This stroke is excellent when clothed or wearing a life jacket. Although slow in speed, it requires very little energy.
  • Breaststroke. Use this stroke to swim underwater, through oil or debris, or in rough seas. It is probably the best stroke for long-range swimming: it allows you to conserve your energy and maintain a reasonable speed.
  • Sidestroke. It is a good relief stroke because you use only one arm to maintain momentum and buoyancy.
  • Backstroke. This stroke is also an excellent relief stroke. It relieves the muscles that you use for other strokes. Use it if an underwater explosion is likely.

If you are in an area where surface oil is burning–

  • Discard your shoes and buoyant life preserver.

Note: If you have an uninflated life preserver, keep it.

  • Cover your nose, mouth, and eyes and quickly go underwater.
  • Swim underwater as far as possible before surfacing to breathe.
  • Before surfacing to breathe and while still underwater, use your hands to push burning fluid away from the area where you wish to surface. Once an area is clear of burning liquid, you can surface and take a few breaths. Try to face downwind before inhaling.
  • Submerge feet first and continue as above until clear of the flames.

If you are in oil-covered water that is free of fire, hold your head high to keep the oil out of your eyes. Attach your life preserver to your wrist and then use it as a raft.

If you have a life preserver, you can stay afloat for an indefinite period. In this case, use the “HELP” body position: Heat Escaping Lessening Posture (HELP). Remain still and assume the fetal position to help you retain body heat. You lose about 50 percent of your body heat through your head. Therefore, keep your head out of the water. Other areas of high heat loss are the neck, the sides, and the groin.

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