Jackets (Personal Flotation Devices or, PFD’s)
Accidents on the water happen too fast to put
one on in an emergency. U.S.
Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in
almost three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2015, and that 84
percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. That’s why boating
safety advocates continue to push for increased and consistent life jacket wear
on the water.
Life jacket designs are much more
comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the old, bulky orange style most
boaters envision. Life jackets that use inflatable
technologies are keep the wearer cool and comfortable and resemble a pair of
suspenders or a belt pack. Many inflate
automatically when immersed in water.
Other life jacket styles are available for
almost any boating activity:
For fishing: Vest-style life jackets come with features such as
pockets and clips to replace the fishing vest and keep the angler safe.
For personal watercraft and
water sports: Inherently buoyant, lighter-weight life jackets are
rugged, with multiple buckles and clasps to keep them secure after impact with
For hunting and cold weather: Full coats and suits are available in camouflage colors
for waterfowl hunting and for those who boat when air and water temperatures
For paddling: Special life jackets are designed with large openings
for arms to allow ease of movement.
For children: Virtually all styles are available sized especially for
children – some with cartoon characters, straps for pulling children from the
water, and high-visibility schemes.
For pets: Life jackets are even available for our four-legged
friends. It’s helpful to purchase one with a handle on top to easily pull your
pet out of the water, if needed.
No matter what the activity or style chosen,
the most important thing is this: remember to grab a life jacket and “Wear It!”
How to Choose the
Right Life Jacket
Looking for a life jacket? Today’s life
jackets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure it’s right for YOU,
your planned activities, and the water conditions you expect to encounter.
Try It On
Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight
to get started.
Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped
Raise your arms straight up over your head
while wearing your life jacket and grab the shoulder material, gently pulling
If there is excess room above the openings
and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly.
A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.
It is extremely important that you choose a
properly fitting life jacket.
Life jackets that are too big will cause the
flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
Life jackets that are too small will not be
able to keep your body afloat.
Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast
Double check that your life jacket is
appropriate for your favorite boating activities.
Life jackets meant for adults do not
work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing
properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your
child to “grow into.”
On recreational vessels
underway, children under 13 years old
must wear a Coast Guard -approved life jacket unless they are below decks or in
an enclosed cabin.
Life jackets are required to be worn in Class III or higher whitewater rapids. This law went into effect in 2010.
Inflatable PFDs are
becoming increasingly popular because they are comfortable, lightweight, and non-restrictive. Inflatable
PFDs are not approved for high impact sports such as riding a personal
Type I -Offshore
Intended for use
offshore or potentially rough seas where quick rescue may not be likely. It has
a greater flotation value than other types and is designed to turn an unconscious
person face up. It is reversible and is available in two sizes, adult (90 lbs. or
more) and child (less than 90 lbs.).
Designed for general
boating activities and is suitable for protected areas, where rough water is
not likely to be found or for activities were quick rescue is available. Not
suitable for extended survival in rougher cold water. This type of jacket is
less buoyant than Type I, and is designed to turn an unconscious person to a vertical
or slightly face-up position. These life jackets are available in several
Intended for general
boating activities or specialized activities such as canoeing, skiing or
fishing due to the freedom of movement it allows. Type III PFDs are suitable
for protected areas where rough water is not likely or where quick rescue is
available. This type of life jacket is less buoyant than a Type II PFD. It is designed to
provide a stable face-up position in calm water for a conscious person floating
with their head tilted back. It is not intended to turn or maintain an
unconscious wearer, face-up. These life jackets are available in many sizes,
styles, and colors that appeal to all ages and work well with varying boating activities.
-Throwable Device (float cushion)
Intended to be thrown to
a person who has fallen overboard. This device is designed to be grasped and held
by the user until they can be rescued. Not suitable for rough or cold water
survival. This type of a float cushion is useless to an unconscious or
exhausted person and is not recommended for non-swimmers or children.
Float Cushions should never
be worn on the back. This will force the person’s face underwater. A person
overboard should put their arms through the straps and hold the cushion to
their chest, which will keep their head out of the water.
-Special Use Devices
This type of life jacket
is designed and approved for restricted uses or activities such as sailboarding
or commercial whitewater rafting. If it is approved and identified for commercial
use only, it does not satisfy requirements for recreational watercraft. The
label on the life jacket indicates the restrictions or limitations that apply
and its performance type. This type of life jacket is only acceptable when used
for the activity for which it is designed and labelled.
A hybrid inflatable life
jacket is also a Type V. This type of inflatable has 7.5 pounds of inherent
buoyancy when deflated and inflates up to 22 pounds. To count for life jacket
carriage requirements, the hybrid inflatable must be worn except when the boat
is not underway or when the boater is in an enclosed space, such as the cabin.