Scouts-L Mail Archive for February of 1999: Re: Hypothermia at campfire last Sat.(longish)
Re: Hypothermia at campfire last Sat.(longish)
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 06:29:24 -0600
After reading your story I am grateful that all became well. It was good
that hopefully all are better.
I would like to comment on the campout. It would appear that the group
as a whole had not been prepared for the cold weather very well. In other
words, the Scouts should have had an Okpik type of training before this
outing as well as the adults.
You are correct about the headgear. We lose as much as 70 -80% heat
through our neck area. These need to be reviewed and the proper method of
dressing for the cold needs to discussed and showen.
Having warm drinks is not the best way to heat someone up that is
showing symptons of Hypothermia. It needs to be attacked aggressively
through a combination of warming, feeding, and fire(if possible).
Remember BSA considers Cold Weather camping as anything 50 degrees or
less. The worst cold weather can occur in the 32 -50 range with Scouts who
are not experienced. I have camped in -40 degrees below and in many cases it
is actually easier in that kind of weather than in the 32 degrees and above
----if you are prepared.
Thanks for sharing that story and again I am glad you folks are OK.
J. Kevin Chapman
Former Course Director of Okpik
Northwest Suburban Council
Mount Prospect, Ill
Jack & John Wright wrote:
> "Im having severe chest pain, and I can't breathe" said my 15 yr. old
> son, as he stumbled 10 ft. over to me when we stood up to sing at the
> closing of the campfire, last Sat. night. He certainly got my full
> I am a serious heart patient myself, with a pacemaker/defibrillator in
> one shoulder. I was sitting next to the Medical Officer, (a Dr. friend
> of ours), who was keeping an eye on me. He immediately diagnosed my son
> in the second stage of hypothermia, which relieved me greatly, as I was
> about ready to have my own fatal attack, just hearing what my son was
> It was our District Winter Camporee. Usually 50-60 degrees in the
> daytime. This year, the predicted snow missed us and the boys were
> running orienteering courses Sat. in T-shirts and shorts in 50 degree
> At the 8PM campfire & awards ceremony, most everybody dressed with
> everything they brought. NOAA was saying below freezing for that
> night. The campfire lasted about 1 1/2 hours, around freezing, with a
> flag retirement ceremony at the end. As the last flag field is placed
> on the fire, it's traditional to remove headgear and sing God Bless
> America, which we all started to do. Then came my son's whisper, stated
> So we turned and began walking toward the car. I was starting to shiver
> in beginning hypothermia as we reached the car, 150 yards away. I had
> rented the camp's warm Lodge because of my condition, so we all got in
> the car and went there. It took my son about 2 hours of warm drinks to
> be able to breathe normally. We were both lucky. The next morning he
> still had some residual low pains in his chest. He won't soon live down
> (in the Troop) the fact I made him sleep in the Lodge with us that
> night. He had on 2 sweaters and had left his big warm jacket at his
> Lessons learned:
> I hate to admit the story above, but it might serve a purpose for you,
> if you have a winter outing left this year.
> Prevention ideas:
> SMs and adults must check every kid *and adult* for level of clothing
> and eqpt. In our case, we were the host Troop, and I and the SM had
> been away from the Troop calculating the award results. The SM might
> not have impressed this enough on our ASMs (good experts & friends) who
> were with the Troop. Everybody knew the expected low temps that night.
> Wear your heavy coat, even though you don't feel cold right now.
> I probably should have been asked to skip the campfire, with my known
> medical condition. I thought about it, but I had a good heavy
> multi-layer coat, and didn't feel bad either. So I sat next to the doc,
> instead. Us adults are supposed to know what we're doing, right?
> Nobody challenged me.
> The Medical Officer might have been stationed at the rear of the
> assembly, complete with a large thermos of hot drink, and an
> announcement made at the start of the campfire about who & where he was,
> and why. A quick reminder about hypothermia might also be in order. If
> anybody felt cold or bad, they'd know where he was. A few other people
> left the campfire because they recognized they were cold, but with
> hypothermia, the victim doesn't usually realize it, until it is too
> late. That almost happened to my son Sat. night.
> Consider not removing headgear, and explaining why, when you're in low
> Heads up, those of you still having winter camporees or campouts. Be
> sure you have a good Medical Officer, and let him/her pre-plan
> carefully. If you have other ideas you've seen work, I'd appreciate
> hearing them. I probably won't go on another winter event, but I want
> my son to have the benefit of your good ideas, for I expect him to have
> a long career in scouting, and he certainly won't forget this lesson.
> YIS, Jack Wright, firstname.lastname@example.org
> Cherokee Area Council, Whitewater Committee,
> Silver Beaver, 1998