The Basics of Lifejackets

Every year, hundreds of people are seriously injured or killed in boating accidents. What makes these injuries and fatalities even more depressing is that many of them could have been avoided if only the victims had been wearing a proper lifejacket. In order to minimize the risk of injury or death on the water, everyone should know the basics of lifejackets.

Whenever a boat is out on the water, every person aboard should be wearing a life jacket that fits them well and has been approved by the United States Coast Guard. It is also a good idea to keep a few extra lifejackets on board in case of emergency. Lifejackets should be inspected annually for signs of wear and tear. If the straps of the jacket become worn or frayed, the jacket may need to be replaced.

There are three general kinds of lifejacket: foam, inflatable, and hybrid. The Coast Guard asserts that foam jackets are the best, although they tend to be bulkier than inflatable jackets. According to the Coast Guard, inflatable lifejackets should only be used by adult swimmers. Hybrid lifejackets are a blend of the foam and inflatable jackets; they can be worn by individuals of all ages, and are suitable for any kind of activity.

Foam, inflatable, and hybrid lifejackets come in five levels of utility. Some lifejackets are designated as Special Use Devices and are only appropriate for certain activities. For instance, wake-boarders or advanced skiers may need a lifejacket that gives them increased range of motion with their arms. A Throwable Device is a lifejacket that is designed to be thrown to a person in the water. These devices should be able to keep a person afloat in calm water. A Flotation Aid, meanwhile, is a lifejacket that allows the wearer to tilt his or her body backwards. Individuals wearing such a lifejacket should have no problem positioning themselves so that they can see in any direction. Another lifejacket that is designed to position the wearer face up is the Near-Shore Buoyancy Vest. These jackets are shaped such that the buoyancy will encourage the wearer’s chest to bob to the surface. Finally, an Off-shore Lifejacket is considered by the Coast Guard to be the most effective flotation device. These jackets are capable of keeping a person at the surface even in choppy, remote locations. Also, these lifejackets will keep even an unconscious individual’s head above water.

The Coast Guard makes such fine distinctions regarding lifejackets because it recognizes their huge importance in preventing and minimizing injuries on the water. Once you have assimilated this information, you should take the lead and make sure that everyone on your boat is equipped with the right jacket. Whether you are the boat owner, the captain, or just a passenger, you have the obligation to increase safety for all concerned.


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