The Right Life Jacket
From the National Safe Boating Council
Life jackets are personal flotation devices (PFDs) and come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer, while others are made to protect you from cold water. No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure to get the one that is right for you.
Select a PFD based on your planned activities, and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Remember, spending a little time now can save your life later.
United States Coast Guard (USCG) approval means that the PFD has passed rigorous testing. So, always look for the USCG approval number on any life jacket you buy.
Be sure to read the manufacturer's label and the ''Think Safe'' pamphlet that is attached to the device. Valuable information is contained within these resources.
A special note regarding inflatables:
Inflatable PFDs are available in adult sizes only, are comfortable for continuous wear in hot weather, and provide high flotation when inflated. They are good for adult swimmers involved in general boating activities.
Because inflatable PFDs will not float without first being inflated, they are not considered appropriate for use by non-swimmers or inexperienced swimmers, unless worn inflated. They are not meant for use by children younger than 16 years of age or by persons weighing less than 80 pounds.
Inflatable PFDs use a replaceable CO2 gas cylinder as the primary means for inflating the PFD. They can also be inflated by blowing into an oral inflation tube.
There are two types of inflation systems being offered on inflatable PFDs.
Inflatable PFDs must not be worn under restrictive clothing because automatic or accidental manual inflation could restrict breathing and cause injury or death. Inflatable PFDs are not suitable for use in whitewater, with personal watercraft, or while water-skiing and the like.
- One is called a manual inflation and requires the user to jerk on a pull-tab (lanyard) to inflate the PFD.
- The second is called manual-auto inflation. This type includes a back-up system designed to automatically inflate when the PFD is submerged. The manual-auto type PFD can also be inflated in the same manner as with the manual type. The CO2 gas cylinder is good for only one inflation. To keep the PFD in a serviceable condition, a used CO2 cylinder must be replaced with a new one after each CO2 inflation. A PFD that is not properly rearmed can only be inflated using the oral inflation tube. Some users may need assistance to properly rearm their PFD's inflation system. The user must check the status of the inflator and cylinder before each outing.