Gone Outdoors

How to Use a Life Jacket

by Emily Potter

According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, more than 700 people died in boating accidents in 2006. Approximately 87 percent of them were not wearing life jackets. The North American Safe Boating Council recommends that everyone wear a life jacket while boating, regardless of swimming ability. With new, lightweight styles of life jackets on the market, it can be comfortable to be safe in any situation.

Choose the appropriate life jacket for your activity. Traditional, Type II vests are only appropriate for near-shore activities. The most comfortable and most often used life jackets are the Type III jackets. The Type III jackets are considered flotation aids, because they will keep a conscious person afloat, but will not turn an unconscious person face-up in the water. Type I life jackets are used for rough water and areas where the rescue might be slow.

Put on the life jacket. Type II jackets go over your head and clip at the front. Type I and Type III jackets fit like a regluar vest, with arm holes. They usually zip and clip in the front.

Check the fit. A snug fit means a good fit. To be sure, have someone stand behind you and gently tug up on the jacket while you stand with your hands in the air. If the jacket rides up, it isn't snug enough. Also make sure all zippers are zipped and clips are closed.

Wear your life jacket whenever you are boating or water skiing. It is more difficult to put on a life jacket if you are already in the water. If you fall from a boat, stay calm and do not waste energy while waiting for rescue. While life jackets are made to keep people afloat in the water, they are not a replacement for common sense. Make sure to be aware of potential hazards while boating or enjoying other water recreation.

Items you will need
  • Life jacket

Tip

  • Make sure there are life jackets readily available in the boat in case a passenger falls in the water without a life jacket.

Warning

  • Adult jackets might not be effective for children. Children should have their own life jackets in the appropriate sizes.

About the Author

Emily Potter has written professionally since 1998. She has edited local magazines, such as "Family Living in Southeast Idaho," and worked as a reporter for the "Idaho State Journal." Potter has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Montana.

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