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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Life Jackets: Make The Right Fit And Wear Them

Without question, wearing life jackets (personal floatation devices — PFDs) saves lives. They help minimize motion to keep you afloat and help insulate your body. Cold water robs the body of heat 25 to 30 times faster than air. It may come as a surprise, but the water doesn’t have to be icy to cause

Without question, wearing life jackets (personal floatation devices — PFDs) saves lives. They help minimize motion to keep you afloat and help insulate your body. Cold water robs the body of heat 25 to 30 times faster than air. It may come as a surprise, but the water doesn’t have to be icy to cause hypothermia (lowering of the body’s core temperature), it just has to be colder than you are.

Each year on average 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide. Eighty percent of the victims are not wearing a life jacket. Statistics from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) reveal that in 2014, 2015, and 2016, 43 boaters died as a result of recreational boating accidents. Of those, 31 were NOT wearing a life jacket.

I learned many valuable lessons years ago while taking a safe boating course, and highly recommend everyone attend one. The instructor explained that putting on a PFD while treading water was not as easy as it might seem. I tested this for myself and found it to be an extremely difficult task. It is a fact that knowledgeable boaters have far fewer accidents on the water than those who have not taken a safe boating course. Classroom, Internet, and correspondence courses are listed on the PFBC’s website at http://www.fishandboat.com.

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission law requires the wearing of a life jacket for children 12 years of age and younger on Commonwealth waters when underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and all canoes and kayaks. This should be the “golden rule” of boating for everyone, regardless of age. A PFBC regulation that began in 2012 states: a person shall wear a Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (PFD or life jacket) during the cold weather months from Nov. 1 through April 30 while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16-feet in length, or any canoe or kayak.

All boats must have a US Coast Guard approved wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) life jacket on board for each person. For more on the rules regarding PFDs, refer to the Pennsylvania Boating Handbook published by the PFBC. They are free and available anywhere boats are sold or transferred.

Life jackets should fit properly, be in good condition, and tested for performance. For a PFD to function properly not only does it have to be on your body, but it has to fit properly as well. PFDs should fit snugly with all zippers, straps, ties, and snaps correctly secured. When in the water you should be able to keep your head out of the water, float comfortably, and be able to swim without significant restriction.

Small children and infants need a well-fitting, highly visible PFD that offers stability and buoyancy in a face-up position. Those with crotch straps, behind-the-head flotation collars, and a grab strap are the best design. After securing all the straps, if there is more than three inches between the child’s shoulders and the device, the PFD is too big. Test the PFD and get your child familiarized with the device in a swimming pool or other safe environment.

Another option is an inflatable life jacket. These are available in either an automatic style that inflates when immersed in water or a manual system that inflates when the user pulls a lanyard to activate a carbon dioxide canister. Many fishermen are now choosing this style because of the device’s low profile, reduced weight, and comfort.

Wearing your life jacket will keep you on the surface, giving you a better chance of rescue and survival. Teach everyone you boat with how to use PFDs and their importance in safety on the water. Most importantly, wear them — they save lives.

Take the PFBC’s life jacket pledge — “Wear It Pennsylvania.”

Mike O'Brien
CONTRIBUTOR
PROFILE

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