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Life Vest FAQs

  • Q At what age do kids have to wear life jackets?

    A While states might differ on this, Federal laws call for all children under the age of 13 to wear a life vest while in vessels upon moving water. Exceptions to this rule might only apply when the child is below deck (or in the cabin) or if the vessel is anchored (moored or not underway). Coast Guard regulations stipulate that these live vests must be of an appropriate size and type for the child and the activities in question. There are currently no infant-approved life vests, meaning that toddlers should always be within reach of an adult and supervised constantly.

  • Q Should you wear a life jacket when using a paddleboard?

    A A stand-up paddleboard (SUP) falls in the category of boats in most states, and many of the same guidelines for such vessels apply. For children under the age of 13, wearing a life vest is mandatory at all times. For older people, it is required that you have one with you, even if you aren’t wearing it throughout your excursion.

  • Q How many life jackets must be on a boat?

    A This is determined by the number of people on the boat. You will need to have a life vest available for everyone aboard the vessel, with children under the age of 13 required to have them on at all times. In most states, it is also a requirement that you have a throwable PFD (Personal Floatation Device such as a floating ring) aboard, just in case someone goes overboard while not wearing their life vest.  

  • Q When should a life jacket be discarded and replaced?

    A Life vests don’t necessarily have an expiry date, but the length of time they will be useful and reliable will depend on the amount of use they undergo and how you take care of them. It is, however, considered the norm to replace a life jacket after ten years, no matter how often it has been used or its apparent condition. These are somewhat maintenance-free devices, and so an annual inspection of their condition is recommended, especially since adult-sized vests might go for years without being made use of.

  • Q How should a life jacket fit?

    A The terminology the authorities (Coast Guard) used for this question is ‘comfortably snug.’ This means two things: First, you should be able to fasten it in such a way that it fits snugly across your torso, and if you can’t, then it’s too big for you. Second, you should feel comfortable moving freely after fastening it, and if you can’t, then it’s too small for you. A loose life vest might be pulled up and over your head by water should you happen to fall over, while an exceedingly tight life vest might restrict your ability to maneuver yourself out of the situation. 

  • Q Do you need a life jacket on a kayak?

    A The short answer here is YES. In most states, the law requires everyone under the age of 13 to have a life vest when onboard any recreational vessel. In general terms, the laws require any vessels of lengths extending beyond 16 feet to have life vests available for every passenger on board. These vests must be of a type and quality that the Coast Guard approves.

  • Q How to clean life jackets?

    A  After being out on the water, follow these steps to properly clean a life vest:
    • Take clean water and wet its surface to start with. You can apply a specialized marine cleaner or any mild detergent onto the vest’s surface and then use a soft-bristle brush to scrub its surface.
    • Go on to rinse it with fresh water until all the cleanser is removed, then allow it to dry out before placing it in a cool, dry storage location.
    • In case of a moldy or smelly life vest, brush away any visible spores, replace the cleaning agent with a mild bleach solution, and repeat the described process.

  • Q Do life vests keep you afloat?

    A The purpose of a life vest is to keep you afloat, even when you are unconscious or unable to make any motions to help keep you from sinking. The typical life vest is filled with air, which counteracts your weight and keeps you at surface level. Non-inflatable vests operate on the same principle, as foam vests, for example, are made of materials that hold numerous tiny air pockets within them.
  • Q How to wear a life vest?

    A The specific steps here will vary depending on the type of life vest in question, but the basic procedure is a simple one. The first thing you will do is place the life vest over your head through the neck opening, making sure the front part is at your chest. You will then attach the straps and secure them around your waist to be taught but not too tight. To inflate the vest, you will pull the inflate cord attached to it. Foam life vests will not need any inflation, so it will be enough to put them on correctly and ensure they’re strapped securely.

  • Q What are the types of life vests?

    A There are five life vest types in current use, and each of them is suited to a particular purpose or condition.
    • Type 1 – Offshore Life Vests: These are made for use in relatively rough or somewhat remote areas, especially those where any emergency rescue operation might take a long time to come about. Their design emphasizes buoyancy, and they will ensure that not only is the wearer kept afloat, but at the right side up to allow for even unconscious persons to breathe.
    • Type 2 – Near-Shore Vests: Calmer or more closely supervised waters are suitable for this vest type. They are very buoyant, but not they may not necessarily have a wearer who is unconscious turn to face the open air.
    • Type 3 – Floatation Aids: These vests are suitably adequate in calm waters where any emergency will be rapidly noticed and attended to. They are not recommendable for rougher conditions, as they will keep the wearer afloat, but the chances of helping them turn the right side up are 50-50. You will most often find these being used by water skiers, wakeboarders, and surfers.
    • Type 4 – Throwable Floatation Devices: These are not designed to be worn but held on to by a person in distress. Federal law requirements demand all vessels reaching beyond 16 feet to have at least one Coast Guard-approved device of this type on board. The most common device of this type is the floatation ring you see hanging by the side of most small to medium-sized vessels.
    • Type 5 – Special-Use Floatation Devices: These are specifically designed for different purposes such as windsurfing, kayaking, wakeboarding, and more. They will each have their specific usage instructions and guidelines for users to adhere to according to their design and functionality. 

  • Q How long do life vests last?

    A Life vests are designed to be long-lasting pieces of equipment and thus do not have what we may refer to as an expiry date. Even so, any repairs or alterations made to them might harm their lifespan. For the most part, if you keep your life vests clean, store them in cool and dry conditions, and correctly use them, they should last you ten years or more.
    Children’s life vests will usually be the most frequently made use of, while adult sizes might only be called for in rare or emergency cases. You should make sure that you check on them at least once a year if they have not been used in that duration, and give them extra-careful inspection after every use.

  • Q How does a life vest work?

    A There have been plenty of floatation devices over the years preceding what we know as the life vest or jacket today. These vests are made of materials or inflatable attachments that float in water. The significant difference is that modern devices are attached to the wearer, allowing their arms to be free to paddle or otherwise help themselves out of their predicament. When a person wearing a life vest falls into the water, its buoyancy will counteract their body’s tendency to sink downwards, thereby keeping them from submerging underwater entirely and, perhaps, drowning.

  • Q What is a life vest?

    A This personal flotation device comes in the shape of a vest worn around the neck and tied to the body to help a person avoid drowning should they find themselves distressed in a large body of water. Life vests are designed to keep the wearer’s mouth above water level with no effort from the wearer. Even an unconscious person might be kept afloat and able to breathe freely in this way, potentially saving their life.

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