New Standards and Guidelines for PFDs

By World Wide Marine Training

Over the years, we have heard the terms life jacket, life preserver, life vest and more recently the use of the letters “PFD.” PFD stands for “Personal Flotation Device.” Lifesaving equipment that keeps a person afloat is not limited to “jackets,” or “vests.” In today’s world there is a wide variety of lifesaving equipment that can be used to keep you afloat. Collectively, they are called Personal Flotation Devises (PFDs).

Let’s talk about PFDs one at a time, as well as some definitions in the terms that the Coast Guard uses. Note that as of September 2014, the Coast Guard made changes in their regulations to create the following general categories of PFDs.

  1. Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – A device that is USCG-approved under law.
  2. Throwable PFD – A PFD that is intended to be thrown to a person in the water. A PFD marked as Type IV or Type V with Type IV performance is considered a throwable PFD.
  3. Wearable PFD – A PFD that is intended to be worn or attached to the body. A PFD marked as Type I, Type II, Type III, or Type V with Type (I, II or III) performance is considered a wearable PFD.

As part of the same change to PFD regulations, the Coast Guard also removed the traditional “Type Number” designations from PFDs.  However, you will still find the traditional Type designations widely in use if shopping for a new PFD.

TYPE I PFDs – OFF-SHORE LIFE JACKETS are best for all waters, open ocean, rough seas, or remote water, where rescue may be slow coming. They have 22 pounds of buoyancy.

TYPE II PFDs – NEAR-SHORE BUOYANT VESTS are for general boating activities.  Good for calm, inland waters, or where there is a good chance for fast rescue. They have 15.5 pounds of buoyancy.

TYPE III PFDs – FLOTATION AIDS are for general boating or the specialized activity that is marked on the device such as water skiing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and others.  Good for calm, inland waters, or where there is a good chance for fast rescue. They have 15.5 pounds of buoyancy.

Type IV PFDs – These include: LIFE RING BUOYS are throwable devices used to assist a person overboard. They have 16.5 pounds of buoyancy. BOAT CUSHIONS are throwable devices used to assist a person overboard. They have 18 pounds of buoyancy.

BUOYANCY – The tendency of a body to float or sink in water or any other fluid. Most people will naturally float in water, especially if they fill their lungs with air. Most require only about 11 pounds of extra buoyancy to keep their head out of water. That is why a PFD with just 15.5 pounds of buoyancy can provide adequate flotation for an adult (even a very large person). PFDs with 22 pounds can provide superior performance.

Under the revised rules, the carriage requirements for PFDs on recreational vessels is as follows:

  1. There must be at least one wearable PFD is on board for each person.
  2. Each PFD must be used in accordance with requirements in the approved label.
  3. Each PFD must be used in accordance with requirements in the owner’s manual, if the label makes reference to such a manual.
  4. No person may use a recreational vessel 16 feet or more in length unless one throwable PFD is on board in addition to the total number of wearable PFDs required.

Proper care of your PFD is critical to ensure that it performs as intended.  Never alter your PFD, as an altered device may not save your life.  Also avoid crushing your PFD (don’t use it as a kneeling pad or boat fender), as PFDs lose buoyancy when crushed.  And always allow your PFD to naturally drip dry after use (do not apply heat) and then stow it in a well ventilated location.

Until next time, we wish you clear skies, fair winds and calm seas!

 

World Wide Marine Training, LLC, is a U.S. Coast Guard Approved facility authorized to give examinations for captain’s licenses up to Master 200 Tons, Able Seaman up to Unlimited, STCW Basic Training, Radar, ARPA and other Endorsements. Please visit www.worldwidemarinetraining.com or call toll-free 866-249-2135.