Learn from the Handbook: Head Above Water

BSA-Handbook-Cover On an airplane, you’re reminded that your seat cushion can
be used as a flotation device. But what if there’s no Boeing 737 nearby to help
you stay afloat in the water? How do you stay alive when stranded at sea?

Need we say: Don’t panic? Instead, just take a breath and
check out the Boy Scout Handbook.
Well, don’t try to read it while treading water—just know what to do ahead of
time so you’ll stay alive out there.

Start by learning survival floating, found on page 192. The
paragraph and illustration teach you how to take a deep breath and relax face
down, a technique many know as the “dead man’s float.” When you need a breath,
simply push up, breathe, and return to the position.

Using your body’s natural buoyancy can keep you alive
without overexerting yourself by treading water.

If this isn’t working, you can always use your clothes to
keep your head above water. Follow these steps:

  1. Remove
    your pants.
  2. Inflate
    a pocket—that way your pants will float even if they slip out of your hands for
    a second.
  3. Tie
    the pant legs together near the cuffs with a square knot.
  4. Close
    the fly.
  5. Hold
    the waistband of the pants open just below the surface. Cup your hand and
    strike the water, following through so that air caught by your hand goes into
    the pants.
  6. Repeat
    until the pants are inflated.
  7. Use
    both hands to hold the waistband closed and keep the air inside.
  8. Place
    the pant legs around your neck life a makeshift life vest.
  9. Swim
    to safety on your back.
  10. As you
    swim, make sure to splash water on the inflated pants from time to time to keep
    them wet. Dry pants will lose air more quickly.

The handbook recommends this method instead of trying to
blow air into the pants, which might cause you to tire or hyperventilate—not
good when out in open water.

For more tips to keep you and your pack, troop, or crew safe
in the water, check out the handbook’s Aquatics section, which starts on page

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