PADDLERsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 05 - Emergency Preparedness



Always paddle in pairs so that you can assist each other in an emergency situation. Take the following actions to rescue a hypothermia victim:

Step 1: If you aren’t wearing a life jacket already, put on and secure a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Step 2: Remove the victim from the water as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Assess the victim’s condition: What stage of hypothermia are they at?

Step 4: Identify yourself to the victim and ask them to respond.


Step 5: Assess what emergency or personal items you have on the paddle craft or on shore that may be used to warm the victim. If possible, use a towel, blanket or extra clothing to keep the victim warm.

Step 6: Get the victim to shore as quickly as possible and once there, seek medical assistance.

Step 7: Once on shore, attempt to slowly increase the victim’s core body temperature by doing any (and ideally ALL) of the following:

  • Remove the victim from their wet clothing.
  • Cover their head, neck and body with dry blankets and towels.
  • Cover them with an insulating device (such as a reflective heat blanket).
  • Apply dry, warm objects to their body (such as a hot water bottle).
  • Use your own body to transfer heat to the victim by lying close to them.

Step 8: If necessary, use a distress signal to get the attention of others.


Never rub a hypothermia victim’s arms and legs to warm them up. It may be your first instinct but it’s actually very dangerous to do because it encourages cold blood to move from the limbs into the core of the victim’s body. They could have a deadly stroke as a result.

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