To survive, you must have a plan!
The Seven Steps to Survival Plan was developed by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) as a plan to survive in any environment. This seven steps plan can be applied to a land, water, or liferaft survival scenario.
You must recognize that you are in danger. This step must start at the on-set of an unusual event such as an instrument warning, a noise or smell. It's human nature to deny these events. We try to justify them away and under-react. Announcing that you may have a minor problem at the onset of the "domino fall" can save valuable time for your rescue.
What do you have on you that will help you and what will hurt you?
This step actually starts prior to your flight. Did you place the liferaft in the aircraft where it can be reached prior to the overwater flight? Did you don your life-vest prior to climbing into the aircraft? Are your cockpit items secured? Are you dressed for the flying environment? In most cases, what you have on your person, is what you will have to survive with. Are you carrying survival equipment on your person?
Clothing is your first line of defense against the elements. Although it may not be desirable to wear long sleeves and long pants while flying in the Caribbean waters, they can actually help retain body heat, help you to stay afloat, and protect you from the direct rays of the sun. Of course, trips to Alaska and Trans-Atlantic would also warrant wearing immersion wear.
Water whisks your body heat away twenty-five times faster than ambient air temperature. Therefore, it is always better to get up as far out of the water as possible. Stay on top of the aircraft if is intact and on the surface but be cautious of snags or lines that can tangle around a foot should it start to sink. The idea is to get the core part of the body (your chest) as far out of the water as possible, for as long as possible. A liferaft will not only get you out of the water, but it will provide shelter from rain, wind, and sun. Add an inflatable floor to your liferaft and you will put a six to eight inch barrier of air between you and the floor of the liferaft and the cold water beneath.
A signal must convey distress. For example, waving one hand above your head conveys "hello", whereas waving two hands conveys distress. Distress signals should be displayed in threes. Three logs laid together on a beach, three fires, three gun shots etc. and should you find yourself floating in the water with no signaling devices, simply grab and throw as much water into the air above you as you can. The water particles will reflect ultra-violet rays from the sun or light from the moon and can be just the thing that catches the searcher's eye.
The A.S.T. Overwater Survival Pouch is loaded with signals. The signal mirror has been spotted as far as 40-60 miles away from a searching aircraft. The waterproof whistle can be heard eight times further than the human voice, the sea dye marker makes an excellent one mile target from the air, and if you happen to have a PLB in your kit, the rescuers will know who you are, your *aircraft type, *a/c color, and *equipment carried, along with your LAT/LONG position before they even take off! *(You can, and should place this info on your 406 registration form as well as your flight plan).
Once you have experienced a traumatic event such as a water ditching and egress, your body has used up a large amount of water. You are already dehydrated. The ideology of rationing water has been replaced by technology. The visible signs of dehydration are: irritability, headache, dizziness, dark urine, poor judgment, loss of physical ability, nausea, drowsiness, depression, and eventually death. By drinking the available water, it will allow you to re-hydrate, thus giving you better strength and ability to think clearly. Use your renewed strength to expand on the other seven steps.
For sea survival, food is not an immediate concern. Although you may experience hunger within a short period of time, you can survive approximately two weeks without food.
It is important to know not to eat food unless you have water. Your body uses a lot of water to digest food, thus causing further dehydration.
Make light of your situation. Because of your situation you may feel helplessness and feel self pity. You must understand that a chain of events has led you to where you are right now. You have survived the water landing and you have recognized your dilemma, now is the time to take charge and overcome. Go back now and improve on the steps that you have so far completed. Use your imagination to deploy a canopy with your space blanket or other materials. You will not only block the sun's powerful rays, but you also deployed a visual and radar target. Tie a signal mirror to the side of the liferaft so that it continues to signal without you operating it. Think about your loved ones and how nice it will be when you are back home saying "and there I was".