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How to Safely Use a Life Jacket

Life Jackets are designed to keep you safe. These personal flotation devices (also called life vests or PFDs) are essential equipment whenever you’re on the water.

It’s important that properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets are worn by everyone engaged in boating activities. You can learn more about life jackets in the following three safety videos.


LIFE JACKET SAFETY

Life jacket types: The best life jacket is the one you’re wearing. There are various types of life jackets, so make sure your life jacket is appropriate for the aquatic activity you’re doing. You should also check the label to make sure it is approved by the Coast Guard.

Proper fit: A snug fits is a proper fit. All straps, buckles and zippers must be secure.

Life jacket condition: Life jackets with tears, broken pieces or buoyancy loss should not be used.


HOW TO PROPERLY FIT A LIFE JACKET

1. Read the label to select your size. A life jacket that is too big or too small for you is not safe.

2. Don the life jacket.

3. Fasten the restraints. Make sure all straps, buckles and zippers are secure.

4. Hold your arms up and have a buddy grab the top of your life jacket and lift. A life jacket is fitted correctly when it does not rise above your shoulders on land or above your ears in the water. If either occurs, adjust the straps or exchange the life jacket for one of the proper size.

5. Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat policies govern all Scouting aquatics activities.


HOW TO READ AND UNDERSTAND THE NEW LIFE JACKET LABELS

Older life jackets were labeled as Type I, II, III, IV or V. That old system has been replaced, and life jackets now come with a new type of label. There are four key parts to the new labels:

1. Buoyancy: Look for an icon on the label containing a number. The higher the number, the better you float.

2. Turning performance: This icon indicates whether the life jacket will autorotate you to a face-up position if you’re face down in the water and unable to move yourself.

3. Activities: These icons indicate which activities are suitable for this life jacket

4. U.S. Coast Guard Approved: This indicates that the life jacket has been tested repeatedly for in-water performance.

Remember to check your life jacket before you wear it. A life jacket with tears, broken pieces or buoyancy loss should be disposed of.

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