Lifejackets and PFDs Save Lives!
Lifejackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) have changed over the years, but one thing has not changed, “It won’t work if you don’t wear it.”
When purchasing your lifejacket/PFD make sure it:
- Fits properly
- Has Canadian Coast Guard or Transport Canada approval
- Is appropriate for your activity or sport
Most people who drown did not plan to be in the water Instead, they were working or playing on, or near the water when something unexpected happened. When it comes to risk factors, the leading contributor to drownings continues to be not wearing a lifejacket at 94%, followed by being alone at 64%. Being out in cold water situations (26%) and/or after dark (21%) were also cited as factors.
Most drownings result from three major contributing factors:
- Inability to swim
- Effects of cold water (hypothermia & gasp reflex)
The three best ways to prevent drowning:
- Learn to swim and how to rescue yourself and others
- Always wear your lifejacket
- Don't consume alcohol prior to swimming or while boating
Choosing a Lifejacket / PFD
The type of lifejacket/PFD chosen depends on the size of the person wearing it, their swimming skill and type of activity they are using it for (you may need more than one). Proper fit is enforced by a law stating that pleasure craft must have enough Canadian-approved flotation devices of the appropriate size for everyone on board. A bright coloured lifejacket/PFD allows for better visibility.
You’ll find critical safety information on the label, which has been approved by the Canadian Coast Guard and/or Transport Canada. If you’re planning on swimming, then choose a lifejacket/PFD that is designed for swimming, if you’re planning on wake boarding, then choose a lifejacket/PFD that is designed for wake boarding. Sport specific gear allows you to enjoy your activities safely.
Inspect your PFD or lifejacket frequently. Ensure seams are intact, and that snaps, belts and zippers work. If you happen to choose an inflatable type PFD be aware that certain restrictions and criteria apply such as not being used for paddle sports.
Proper Fit = Comfort = Safety
If it fits, you are more likely to wear it. Complete a safety check of all snaps, ties, zippers and buckles when done up, creating a snug fit. Children’s lifejackets/PFDs are required to have a strap between the legs, plus a grab handle on the collar. Once it’s on snugly, ask yourself a few questions.
- Can your arms move freely? (arms should move freely)
- Does it shift above your chin when bending over or sitting in a chair? If so, it’s too big.
Not Just for Boating
Wearing a lifejacket/PFD for recreational purposes such as boating is a smart and safe idea and will assist in reducing drownings. You should also be wearing one if you work in or around the water and when driving a snowmobile or All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) over frozen lakes. Your safety and your children’s safety are increased when wearing them properly and at all times.
Did You Know?
Old lifejackets/PFDs may not keep you afloat, as the materials weaken over time and snaps, ties, zippers and buckles break. Inspect your flotation device for wear and tear, and if in doubt, throw it out!
Always attach a plastic safety whistle to your lifejacket/PFD in case of emergencies. It will allow family, friends and rescuers to hear you as you blast the universal signal for help, which is 3 blasts, break, 3 blasts, break, continue to blow this signal and you’ll be rescued.