1The survival suit may be cumbersome and uncomfortable but it is responsible for saving many lives. Although it is thought of as a cold water safety device, vessels operating in moderate waters offshore should also consider carrying one suit per person. A survival, or immersion suit protects the occupant by putting a barrier between skin and water. This keeps body heat from being lost to the water which can lead to hypothermia and death. There are two main types of suits that differ in construction and purpose. The first is a floatation type suit which resembles a scuba diver’s dry suit. Another type of suit can be called a barrier suit which as little insulation or floatation. Floatation is only one of the excellent properties of these suits. They also have great insulation properties and some rigidity to hold the thick foam material away from the skin of someone bobbing in the sea.

Barrier suits are tough, waterproof membranes designed to keep you dry. The clothing under your suit keeps you warm. Ice divers use these techniques when they layer thick synthetic fleece under their dry suits.

An immersion suit is a body covering suit that is worn specifically for the purpose of remaining afloat and surviving during emergencies in high seas. Therefore this suit is also known as a survival suit or a rescue suit. In today’s times, an immersion suit is one of the most important necessities on ships and oil rigs where a person might need something to protect him from the hazards of water. Immersion suits are made of neoprene, a type of rubber that is completely waterproof and has an ability to withstand extreme temperatures of water and fire. The immersion suit fits the person’s body completely without exposing a single part in the water. It also has a protective hood to cover the head and gloves to cover the hands. A rescue suit is designed mainly in two colours – red and orange. Both the colours are kept bright (fluorescent) so that the suits can attract the attention of paramedics or rescue ships immediately.

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Types of Immersion Suits

There are basically three types of immersion suits. The main types can be described as follows:

• The first type of a survival suit is something that is worn by fishermen who fish in extremely cold temperatures. These fishermen keep wearing the immersion suit continuously in order to make sure that their bodies do not lose heat and are kept continuously warm and insulated.

• The second type of rescue suit is the one that is kept on all ships, boats and oil rigs. It is a compulsory requirement without which workers cannot be expected to work in the ship or oil rigs. Only at the time of the critical situation, such immersion suits are worn by the workers.

• The third and final type of immersion suit is known as the Inflatable Immersion Suit. But unlike the two previous immersion suits, this rescue suit does not fully cover the person’s body. The inflated suit only covers a person’s hands and legs, thus helping to keep the person afloat and safe in emergency situations. Because of the compactness of the suit, this suit is easier to carry and transport than the previous two suits mentioned.

Certain Immersion suits are also in-built with an emergency torch, a whistle and a tagline that can be attached to the suit of the person who is being rescued. This tagline, also known as the buddy line, is provided to make sure that all the people are together and no person gets lost while in the water.

The technology in the creation and development of an immersion suit has come a long way. In the days to come, there will be even more advancements which will continue to make the application even more successful than what it is at present.

If you head offshore beyond a reasonable swim to the beach, then you need to have a survival suit for every person on your boat. Think that’s too strict? I’ll give you a pass only if you sail the tropics—and only during the summer. (The waters off Key West were 69 degrees in January. Think you’ll survive in waters less than 70?) The rest of you should have survival suits on board. They may not be required for pleasure boats. The minimums aren’t always enough.

What is a survival suit?

3They go by a few names: survival suits, quick-donning immersion suits or gumby suits. No matter what you call it, a survival suit is typically not a dry suit (though some models come close).  Survival suits are not designed to keep all water out; they are designed to keep heat in. They do this by providing a layer of insulation, typically 5mm of neoprene, and restricting the flow of water next to the body. Also unlike dry suits that are designed for constant wear in adverse conditions, survival suits (of the less-than-$400 variety) are designed to be put on within a minute, right over your clothes and shoes.  Donning in the water is difficult and borders on unlikely in bad conditions, but it can be done, and any water inside will be heated by the body. Survival suits also provide adequate flotation. That feature, along with insulation from cold water, allows them to dramatically extend survival times.

Survival suit sizing

As with life jackets, survival suits should be assigned to individuals and not just randomly pulled from a pile when needed.  Too small is too small, and you won’t be able to get the thing on. Too large may be worse than no suit at all because with too much material between the crotch and the neck opening, the suits can ride up over your head in the water, trapping you in a neoprene sack with a big opening at the top. Try them on before you buy them, right there in the store over whatever you are wearing. And don’t be fooled by size statements like “Adult Universal, 110 to 330 pounds.” That’s absurd.

Immersionsuits make tailored sizes to fit different body types. You may pay a little more, but I promise you won’t be thinking about how much they cost if you ever need to use them.