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Life Jackets and PFD - Boating Equipment Essentials

Aug 18, 2007
Life jackets may be the #1 safety device needed for all boaters. No matter what your age, or experience, a life jacket or PFD is a must-have for everyone on board!

Life Jackets:
Life jackets come in two main styles: standard and small vessel. Standard life jackets are the most recommended since they offer the best protection and durability. They come in the following colors to enable you to be seen in the water: red, orange and yellow.

Standard Life Jackets:
A good-quality standard life jacket has several main objectives. They are designed to:

-Turn you on your back, keeping your face out of the water, even if you are knocked unconscious.
-Good for all water conditions.
-Sized appropriately for both children and adults.

Small Vessel Life Jackets:
Since small vessel jackets are generally worn on smaller-sized ponds, lakes and river they do not offer the same protection as standard life jackets, which are worn when on rough seas. These devices offer:

-Less flotation.
-Slower turn around from to back when in the water (which could cause water ingestion).
-Only 3 sizes, which may not fit every body size/type properly.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's):
Personal Flotation Devices, commonly known as PFD's, are most used for pleasure crafting such as canoeing, kayaking and sail boarding, among others. Although they come in a variety of stylish colors, most water experts agree that the best choice is red, orange or yellow, since they allow rescue workers t located you faster when in the water.

Most people prefer the use of PFD's over standard life jackets because they are more comfortable. But, keep in mind when choosing between the two, that PFD comfort may give way to safety. They offer far less flotation and turning capability if thrown in the water, and shouldn't usually be worn by children or poor swimmers.

Choosing a Personal Flotation Device style depends a great deal on our needs, and the type of activity you will be engaged in. When traveling at high speeds, a PFD featuring three or more chest belts are recommended. Cold-water users should consider purchasing a PFD with thermal protection and those who wear a PFD for a specific ongoing recreational purpose (ie: canoeing, sailing, etc). Use one specifically designed for that sport.

Properly Fitting Children:
For the best protection, children should always wear a life jacket or PFD that has been specifically sized for them. It is NEVER acceptable for a child to be strapped into an adult sized flotation device of any kind. Even when wearing the correct size and style for their age, children's safety devices should also feature:

-Large collars for proper head support in case of an accident.
-Waist ties in front.
-Safety straps between the legs to keep the device form slipping over their heads and off.
-Reflective buckles and straps to make locating them in the water easier and faster.

In addition every life jacket and PFD should be kept in its best condition by:

-Never kneeling or sitting on it.
-Checking regularly for buoyancy.
-Making sure all straps, zippers and buckles remain in tip-top shape.
-Checking to be sure all straps remain attached securely and properly.
-Dried in open air to avoid heat damage.

Keeping your emergency flotation device in good condition is essential to ensuring that it will work properly in case of an emergency.
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