Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)

  • Types of PFDs
  • Storage and Maintenance of PFDs

    Types of PFDs

    Type I PFDs, or offshore life jackets, are effective for all waters, especially rough or remote waters where rescue could be delayed. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers in the water to a face-up position within a few seconds. Providing the most buoyancy of all PFDs, the adult size provides at least 22 pounds of floatation, while the child size provides a minimum of 11 pounds. Though the Type I is bulky and uncomfortable, it does have a reflective color for easier detection. Routine wear may be a hazard on small boats or on vessels with overhead lines. Type I PFDs can be covered in either fabric or vinyl. The vinyl cover, however, is easier to clean and resistant to tears. Both are rectangular and easy to store.

    Type II PFDs, or near-shore buoyant vests, are intended for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. This type will turn some unconscious wearers to a face-up position, though not as fast or effectively as the Type I. The adult size provides at least 15.5 pounds buoyancy, while the child’s provides up to 11 pounds. Though it is less bulky than Type I, it is not intended for long hours in calm or rough water. Again, routine wear may be hazardous on small sailing craft or other vessels with overhead lines.

    Type III PFDs, or flotation aids, are also good for calm waters where there is a good chance of quick rescue. They are designed so that wearers can put themselves in a face-up position in the water. Type III PFDs have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds. They can come in many styles, colors, and sizes and are generally the most comfortable of the PFDs. Examples of floatation aids include float coats, fishing vests, and vests designed for various water sports.

    Type IV PFDs, or throwable devices, are intended for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always present. They are designed to be held onto by the person in the water. Type IV PFDs are not substitutes for lifejackets; they simply serve as good backups for the other devices. Type IV devices include buoyant cushions, ring buoys, and horseshoe buoys.

    Type V PFDs, or special use devices, are intended for specific activities and designed for routine wear. In most cases, they must be worn because of their difficulty to put on, especially in water. They are less bulky than other PFDs, and contain an inflatable chamber. Some examples include deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests, and Hybrid PFDs. Some provide protection from hypothermia.

    Storage and Maintenance of PFDs

  • Make sure the PFD fits. Do not try to alter it.
  • In order to keep buoyancy, do not place heavy objects on it.
  • Do not leave in the heat for long periods of time.
  • Let it drip dry thoroughly after use.
  • Rinse with fresh water after being in salt water.
  • Store in a well-ventilated place.
  • Watch for rips, tears, and holes and make sure seams, straps and hardware are okay.
  • Test all your PFDs at the start of every boating season.