Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is the best life jacket on the market? The one you will wear.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Ms. Dorothy Takashina, Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association

The Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association, comprised of life jacket and life jacket component manufacturers, continually works to improve standards and test methods by subsidizing independent studies and volunteering with industry work groups.

Wear It—Don’t Stow It!— Recreational boaters use life jackets classified by the Coast Guard as Type I, Type II, or Type III.

  • Type I has a minimum of 22 lbs. buoyancy. The bulky Type I life jacket is classified as “offshore” and is designed for survival in rough, open water where quick rescue is unlikely.

  • Type II has a minimum of 15.5 lbs. buoyancy and more stringent performance requirements than Type I, such as righting (turning many wearers face-up in the water). Type II is suitable for a wide variety of boating activities in calm inland waters where fast rescue is likely.

  • Type III life jackets also have a minimum of 15.5 lbs. buoyancy but do not have the more stringent standards required of Type II jackets. Type III jackets are generally considered the most comfortable for continuous wear and the most suitable for active water sports.
Inflatable Life Jackets—The first inflatable life jackets were U.S. Coast Guard-approved in 1996 and are gaining in popularity. They come in several variations, but basically work the same way: A gas-tight bladder is folded into a durable cover until the life jacket inflates or is inflated by firing a CO2 cylinder.

Inflatable PFDs may also be classified as Type I, II, or III:

  • Fully inflated Type I and Type II life jackets have a minimum of 34 lbs. buoyancy. Both types are suitable for off-shore use in open, rough waters, and for general boating and coastal cruising due to their slim design. Righting action is faster with the higher buoyancy of Types I and II. Type I inflatable PFDs have highly visible coloring, enhancing rescue.

  • The Type III inflatable life jacket has a minimum of 22.5 lbs. of buoyancy and is required to have righting ability.
All inflatable life jackets require re-arming and periodic maintenance.

Full article is available at

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