There’s no question that life jackets save lives. However, a life jacket that does not fit properly can put a person at risk of drowning. Proper fit is imperative for safety on the water.
To ensure the proper fit of a PFD, have the wearer put on a PFD and adjust the straps as necessary to ensure a snug fit. Have the wearer raise his or her arms above their head. With his or her arms raised above their head, pull-up firmly on the upper straps of the PFD. A properly fitted PFD will not ride higher than the ears or mouth of the wearer and will keep the head and chin out of the water. Follow the tips below to insure that the PFD you will be wearing is effective.
What is the safest life jacket? In terms of risk of drowning, the safest life jacket is the one you’re willing to wear! There are many good choices to keep you safe on the water. Some of the choices are a better for certain situations than others, and therefore the choices are explained in the "Think Safe" life jacket pamphlet that is sold with every US Coast Guard approved life jacket. By reading the pamphlet, you can understand how to safely have fun on the water.
Note – The fitting procedure above is not applicable to inflatable PFDs. For inflatable PFDs, the retaining strap should be adjusted loosely to allow for the inflation of the device.
Inflatable PFDs are now available in types III and V. However, the characteristics of inflatable PFDs are different than inherently buoyant PFDs. Inflatable PFDs are not inherently buoyant and will not float without inflation.
Although inflatable PFDs are considered one of the most comfortable PFDs to wear when it's hot, inflatable PFDs require regular maintenance. It is against the law for a person under 16 to meet the carriage requirements by wearing an inflatable PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not for use when water impact is expected, such as when waterskiing, riding personal watercraft, or whitewater paddling.
An inflatable PFD requires regular maintenance — the owner’s manual should be read and kept as reference. After you have activated your inflatable PFD, replace the CO2 cartridge and re-arm.
To insure proper operation make sure that:
Lack of proper maintenance will render the inflatable PFD useless.