Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht - FAQs


  • Clothing
  • Cold Water Immersion Phases
  • Cold Water Near Drowning
  • Cold Water Self-rescue
  • Cold Water Survival
    Frostbite Levels and Treatment
  • Heatpac Charcoal Heater
  • Heat Loss Mechanisms
  • Heat Loss from the head
  • Hypothermia Cardiac Arrest
  • Hypothermia Horizontal Handling
  • Hypothermia Symptoms/Levels
  • Hypothermia Treatment
  • Raynauds Syndrome/Disease
  • Space Blankets
  • Vapour Barriers

Q: Is it possible to have access to your instructional videos and can I use them for educational purposes.

A: Yes. The videos referred to here can be used for educational purposes only.

You can access the following 3 video files done for the Discovery Channel Canada:

1) Cold Water Survival – Strategies for survival if you fall through the ice  (High Res - 150 MB)

2) You’re Out, Now What? How to survive a night in the forest after losing your snowmobile through the ice  (High Res - 136 MB)

3) Getting That Sinking Feeling - The importance of proper outerwear to keep you afloat and alive when snowmobiling  (High Res - 123 MB)

You can also ask for a free DVD of our Cold Water Boot Camp, Reality Video at http://www.coldwaterbootcamp.com/.

For other resources, please check out our web page http://www.umanitoba.ca/kinrec/giesbrecht.


Q: Do you have any written material on cold water physiology, safety etc.

A: Yes. You can download several short papers from our web page (scroll to bottom) http://www.umanitoba.ca/kinrec/giesbrecht.

You may also be interested in our recent book Hypothermia, Frostbite and Other Cold Injuries, which can be accessed at http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1254


Q: Have you published any scientific work in the area of cold water physiology and safety.

A: Yes. You can download a PDF listing selected references.



  • We have completed more than 80 vehicle submersions with people in them.
  • You may of our summary article.
  • A vehicle crash into water has the highest mortality rate of any type of single-vehicle accident.
  • Eight to 10% of all drownings in North America occur in vehicles.
  • Usually, there is time to survive but you must act quickly and correctly.

What not to do:

If you touch your cell phone you will probably die!

  • You have about 1 minute to exit through your window before water pressure prevents opening the windows. All your cell phone call will do is waste valuable time. The rescue personnel cannot get to you within one minute anyway.

What you should do:

If your vehicle ends up in water, REMEMBER: DO NOT PANIC and

    • Seatbelts – Get your seatbelts off immediately, NO DELAY
    • Windows* – Lower or break your window
    • Children – Get your small children in the front seat with you
    • Out – Get out through the window. Push your children out first!

*WINDOWS – You may need a centre punch to break your side windows – see below for purchase information.

How long will the vehicle “float”?

  • Although a vehicle may be visible for a few minutes, you can only escape during the first minute or so.
  • We consider that the vehicle is
  1. FLOATING only until the water reaches the bottom of the side windows (about 1 minute) . At this point you can still roll down the windows.

  2. After that the vehicle is
    SINKING. The water pressure will press the window against the door frame, making it impossible to open it. It does not matter how long this period is. Even though the vehicle is visible, it is a tomb with windows and doors that cannot be opened.

  3. Finally, the vehicle is
    SUBMERGED. Even though it is under water, all the air will not have escaped yet. Thus you will still not be able to open the doors or windows. Now you would have to wait for the vehicle to fill completely with water before the pressure equalizes and the door can be opened. Unfortunately, unless you are Houdini, you will probably have drowned by then.

One final principle:

Use the window, not the door. Because the water level is higher outside than inside, the pressure makes if VERY DIFFICULT, IF NOT IMPOSSIBLE, to open the door. If you could get the door open, water would rush in and the vehicle would plummet to the bottom. You may be caught in the door, which will then slam shut, and you will certainly trap anyone else who is still in the vehicle.

(Photo courtesy of Trevor Hagan, Winnipeg Free Press)

This device can be found at many Safety Supply retailers.

In Winnipeg this device can be purchased from:
1) Reliant Safety Equipment Inc.
1708 St. James St., Winnipeg
Tel. (204) 582-0734
2) ABC Fire and Safety Equipment Ltd.
9-846 Marion St., Winnipeg
Tel (204) 233-6083

Please note that I do not have any commercial interests in the Res-Q-Me manufacturers or retailers. I recommend it because it is small, effective and can be hung in an obvious, accessible location without being unsightly.



In 2002, a panel of experts was convened in Sitka, Alaska to review and revise the "State of Alaska Cold Injuries Guidelines". This revision was approved by the State Legislature and published in 2003. Download PDF.

For other State of Alaska Emergency Medical Services Unit Downloads, visit http://www.ems.alaska.gov/ems/downloads/


Free download of CWBC presentation (PDF) for educational use.