A life jacket is a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Other common names of life jackets are life belts, life preserver, cork jacket, and life vest. It is a simple piece of equipment that is specially designed to keep the wearer afloat in the water. A life jacket is considered to be the most important safety equipment and you should wear one whenever you go boating.
Every year, a lot of lives are lost in boating accidents, but we can easily avoid that by making sure there are sufficient life jackets available on the vessels. In this article, we are going to provide you with all the necessary details about life jackets.
How Does a Life Jacket Save Lives?
Before moving any further, let’s take a look at how a life jacket comes in handy. A life jacket saves life by:
- Providing buoyancy if you jump into the water purposefully to save someone else’s life.
- Keeping you afloat if you suddenly or surprisingly find yourself in the water.
- Giving you support if you are a non-swimmer or a weak swimmer.
- Help you when you are unable to keep yourself afloat due to cold, injury, or fatigue.
When to Wear a Life Jacket
While in water, each person must carry an approved life jacket, but there are some compulsory scenarios where wearing a life jacket is mandatory. They include:
- When passing a specified coastal bar in an open boat with a length of less than 4.8 meters.
- Being under the age of 12 and traveling in an open boat with a length of less than 4.8 meters.
General Rules for Life Jackets
- It is a legal requirement that each person on board must carry an appropriate type and size of a life jacket.
- They must be placed or stored beforehand to allow easy and quick access at the time of need.
- They must be in working order.
- They must be in good condition.
- They must be secured and fastened as intended by the manufacturer.
- Each form of life jacket must comply with certain standards.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
Now that you have understood why you need to keep a life jacket on hand whenever you venture out onto the water, you must keep certain things in mind. Life jackets must be:
- Suitable for the intended action or activity.
- Of the appropriate size for the intended user.
- In serviceable and good condition.
- Approved by the coast guard to meet carriage requirements.
Life Jackets for Children
Life jackets are mandatory for children whenever they are in the water. The requirements for children to wear life jackets vary in certain situations; they include:
- Exemptions for when in an enclosed cabin or below deck.
- According to Federal Law, children under 12 years of age must wear their lifejackets while a vessel is underway.
- Different states have different laws, so it is your responsibility to check what your state officials require regarding the safety of your children while they are in the water.
Types of Life Jackets
There are different types of life jackets; each varies in the intended use and buoyancy it offers. Let’s have a quick look at them:
|Type of Life Jacket||Intended Use||Minimum Buoyancy||Additional Information|
|Type I – Inherently Buoyant||When fishing, racing, cruising offshore, in a stormy condition, or while boating alone.||11 lbs. for children and 22 lbs. for adults.||This type is considered as the best for remote, tough, or open water where rescue might get delayed. Offers good protection but slightly uncomfortable and bulky. Due to additional fabric and foam, it retains the body heat effectively.|
|Type II – Inherently Buoyant||Good for boating in inland sailing, fishing, sailing, and light craft.||15.5 lbs. for adults.||This type is suitable to be used near offshore where rescue is near. Not appropriate for survival in rough water. To keep your head above water, it requires you to tread.|
|Type II - Inflatable||For nearshore and serious inland cruising.||34 lbs. for adults and not for children under age 16.||They are very comfortable and more buoyant than Type II inherently.|
|Type III – Inherently Buoyant||For supervised activities like water skiing, kayaking, dinghy races, fishing, and watercraft operations.||15.5 lbs. for adults.||Good for inland and protected activities but not appropriate for use in rough water.|
|Type III - Inflatable||For nearshore and inshore boating and supervised activities.||22. 5 lbs for adults and not for children under age 16.||More comfortable than type III inherently buoyant but have only one manual inflation mechanism.|
|Type IV - Throwable||To supplement the buoyancy of a person overboard or to be thrown to an overboard victim.||18 lbs. for boat cushion and 16.5 lbs. for ring buoy.||Can be a horseshoe buoy, a ring buoy, or a square style mounted in the deck.|
|Type V – Special Use||Restricted for deck suit, sailboard hardness, paddling vest, or float coasts.||15.5 – 22 lbs. for adults.||When underway, it must be worn to meet certain coast guard requirements.|
|Type V – Automatic Inflation||Restricted to be used for float coat, deck suit, and belt pack, etc.||22.5 – 34 lbs. but depends on style.||Some of these models feature a combination of built-in foam and CO2 inflation.|
|Type V – Hybrid Inflation||Used for those boating activities where immediate rescue can reach.||7.5 lbs. of built-in buoyancy and 22 lbs. maximum.||It is required to be worn when underway.
Water-activated models automatically inflate when submerged in water.
A life jacket is very important whenever we are boating. Although it keeps us afloat while we are in the water, you must know the rules of life jackets. We must also know which type of life jacket is suitable for us. If you know all of these necessary things, then you can surely enjoy your boating without any fear.