78813196Summer is so many things to all of us. For many, it means fun on and in the water: swimming, boating, water skiing – and much more. We are lucky to live near some beautiful places for recreation on the water.

There is one important accessory for any summer adventure on the water: a life jacket. Make a commitment to choose a life jacket that you will wear all the time. Our advice is to select the best quality and best fitting life jacket that you can afford. You may even wish to own more than one for different activities or times of year. A life jacket is very cheap life insurance that buys you peace of mind for yourself, your loved ones, your friends and co-workers.

How do you choose a life jacket? Here’s how:

You will want to test the fit and flotation design of your new life jackets in the water before venturing out in the boat. The distribution of your own body mass is part of the overall flotation equation and until tested in the water you won’t really have a sense of how well your life jacket suits and fits you. If it rides up, constricts your breathing, obstructs your vision or tips you forward you should exchange it for another design. By all means, have your kids do this so they are comfortable with how they work.

There are two basic types of life jackets (also known as Personal Flotation Devices, or PFDs): inherently buoyant and inflatable life jackets.

Inherently buoyant life jackets “have buoyancy capabilities due to their construction from unicellular foam or macro cellular elements.” Life jackets with foam are classified as inherently buoyant because a person does not need to do anything to activate the flotation. These foams use closed cells that trap air in pockets when the jacket is submerged.

Inflatable life jackets are not made of inherently buoyant materials, but instead contain inflation devices that either automatically inflate when immersed in water, or must be inflated by the wearer using either an oral or manual inflation device (usually by pulling a cord). The inflation time for inflatable life jackets is relatively short (usually less than five seconds).

  • Manual inflatable life jackets are available in suspender, or belt pack styles.
  • Automatically inflatable life jackets are available in suspender styles only and contain a small internal element that disintegrates when wet, which then activates a CO2 inflation cartridge to inflate the device.

Get your life jacket – then, go have that fun summer adventure. When you are out on the water in a comfortable life jacket that looks and feels great you’ll be glad that you spent a little more time, effort and money to choose the right one.

For more information, visit http://www.boatingsidekicks.com/lifejackets.htm

Nancy Blanchard, FC, is the Flotilla Commander and Public Affairs Officer for the Burlington flotilla, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Department of Homeland Security.

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