Sunday, January 29, 2012

Survey of Who Would Stay Aboard a Sinking Ship, Who Would Swim Vary

In the aftermath of the sinking of the Costa Concordia, and according to a Poll Position national telephonic survey of Americans, age does make a difference in terms of whether respondents who might find themselves on a sinking ship would try and swim to safety or wait for help. The question asked of respondents was: "Would you choose to stay on the sinking ship hoping help would come, or would you jump into frigid waters to try and swim to safety"? Unfortunately, the total number of respondents polled was not disclosed.

The choice of 42% of respondents was to jump in the water to try and swim to safety whereas 29% said they would stay on the ship hoping help would come; 29% of the respondents offered no opinion at all.

Opinions by age differed significantly. Young people were more likely to swim for it and older Americans said they would wait for help. In the 18-29 age group, 63% said they would jump into the water and try to swim to safety, 15% would wait for help and 22% had no opinion.

Conversely, among Americans in the 65 and over age group, 45% said they would stay on the sinking ship hoping for help, 24% said they would jump in the water to try and swim to safety and 31% did not offer an opinion.

COMMENT: Now comes the reality and the onset of hypothermia, which can occur when the body temperature reaches 95 degrees or lower.

Compared to a telephonic survey, it has been medically documented that a person can survive in 41-degree F (5-degree C) water for perhaps 10, 15 or 20 minutes before the muscles get weak, coordination and strength are lost and blood begins to move away from the extremities and move toward the torso and head.

If the water temperature is 32 degrees F or lower than that, exhaustion and unconsciousness may set in with 15 minutes!

Hence, unless a person in cold water (i.e., 41 degrees) is ten-to-fifteen minutes from shore, the likelihood of them successfully reaching shore is pretty remote because their limbs can no longer function properly.

People who are obese or who have a lot of soft tissue that provides a lot of insulation are likely to last longer than people with lean builds, because body fat provides insulation. Another factor is how much of the body is actually underwater. If, for example, a good part of the body is not submerged, as in the case of the use of a flotation device, a person might last longer in cold water.

Generally speaking, a person with a body temperature of 70-80 degrees F (21 and 27 degrees C) is going to either appear dead or quickly approach death. Nevertheless, emergency physicians would still endeavor to warm them up and bring them back to live, considering that a heart beat may not be heard with a conventional stethoscope.

Also, in addition to CPR, a cardiopulmonary bypass (heart–lung) machine can also be used to oxygenate the blood and produce a pulse.


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