UNITED STATES COAST GUARD AUXILIARY
OPERATION BOAT SMART
BOAT SMART FROM THE START
WEAR THE PROPER PFD
WEAR THE PROPER PFD
Have you checked your safety gear yet this year? If you are like most of us, probably not. Safety equipment is the most important thing you need to verify that you have on your boat each year. It is called safety gear because your life, or that of a loved one, may depend on having it on board, and in good condition.
At the top of every USCG Minimum Safety Equipment list are Personal Flotation Devices, (PFDs). Basically, you need to have one approved, Type I, II, III, or V PFD for everyone on board or on the water ski behind you. If your boat is over 16 feet, you must also have a Type IV Throw Cushion or life ring.
|Type 1||Type II||Type III|
|Type IV||Type V||Survival Suit|
We know the dealer sold you a "USCG Safety package" when you bought the boat 3 or 4 years ago and it is still under the V-Berth seat where you put them. Well that was then, this is now! Has your family grown any since then, in number and/or size? Is your son taking along his best friend? Did you lose a fender last year, causing some one use a Lifejacket between boats instead? When it ripped did you throw it away, making you one short. Does your family dog, or cat, come along with you? I think you can see where I am heading. The only constant we have in life is that things change.
To increase your awareness we would like to point out a couple of common misconceptions.
First, is that the "USCG-Approved" label on your PFD guarantees it will save your life. Not true. The stamp only indicates that it has been constructed and tested to minimum standards of construction and flotation. It is vital to WEAR THE RIGHT PFD for the boating activity you're engaging in.
Second, most people are not strong enough swimmers to survive an extended period of time in the water. What if you are injured? You need a PFD that will keep you afloat even when exhausted or incapacitated. Did you know that Type II, Near-Shore Devices, are only considered effective for keeping your head above water in calm, protected waters?
Third, Type III Flotation Aid Devices are designed only to be worn to help you to float during wet boating activities like water-skiing, kayaking, or in those cases where rescue is immediately available.
Remember, Type IV Throwable Devices are not allowed as a substitute for Lifejackets. They are used to assist a person who has gone overboard.
When evaluating your PFD requirements, we recommend you first look at your boating habits. If you go offshore, buy Type I Off-Shore Devices to meet your "Minimum Equipment Requirements." They are the only lifejackets recommended for rough, offshore water, and are designed to turn most unconscious persons face up
Always have enough PFDs on board to provide protection for the maximum number of persons allowed on the manufacturer's plate.
Please don't store lifejackets under the V-Berth where they may not be accessible during an emergency. The best place for them is in the cockpit, under a seat cushion, where they can float free if the boat sinks. Also, carry a variety of sizes based on your family configuration, even if it means carrying a couple of extras. This is what we call the Emergency Set of PFDs.
Now that you have covered your "Minimum Requirements" lets talk about your "Working Set" of PFDs. The number of boaters who die in boating accidents due to lack of a lifejacket is still four out of five. There is only one way to change this statistic, wear your PFD more often.
Are you one of those who thinks PFDs are too bulky or ugly to be worn? Think again! Take a look at the lifejacket display at your favorite marine store or sporting goods store.
Style and function are in. If you have to put on a jacket because of weather conditions put on a "Float Coat".
If you are racing and need to move around the foredeck quickly, try some of the new Inflatable PFDs.
If you are working, or fishing, buy some of the very functional Work or Fishing Vests produced by Stearns, Mustang or other safety conscious manufacturers.
Have enough Throw Cushions (Type IV) to go around the sunbathing crowd. If you are into water-skiing, or just horsing around, carry a variety of sizes and styles of Type III Flotation Aids.
A good rule of thumb is to have enough stylish, functional, Lifejackets on board for the maximum number of persons allowed.
Get your children in the habit of wearing comfortable life vests all of the time and encourage others to wear them when they are at risk.
Should you encounter severe weather conditions, or are disabled and awaiting assistance, break out, and don, your emergency set of PFDs until conditions improve, or help arrives. A second set of PFDs is well worth the cost to protect your loved ones, and provides a valuable, extra level of security in case of an accident.
Boat Smart from the Start, Wear Your Lifejacket.
We Need You -- The Coast Guard Auxiliary is called upon to provide essential services to the Coast Guard as they focus more heavily on their military missions. We need all the help we can get. You needn't own a boat or be an experienced boater, since our missions are wide-ranging. For information about Auxiliary missions and the Auxiliary in general, go to our Join the Auxiliary web page. You will find there a form through which you can ask that a local Auxiliarist make contact with you to explore the ways in which you can assist Team Coast Guard. To learn more go to Charting Your Course in the USCG Auxiliary.
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www.ratlines.com Revised: 12/18/07