US Army Corps of Engineers
Baltimore District

Water Safety Links

 

Lifejackets 101

Can you spot what's wrong with this picture?  (see below for the answer)

At Raystown 98% of all water-related fatalities could have been prevented had the victim simply worn a lifejacket.  If you don’t think you need to wear a lifejacket, please take five minutes to review the other water safety links.  If you want to maximize your safety, comfort and convenience on the water continue to read!

Whats wrong?  The dad in the background is not wearing his life jacket.  Adult males represent over 80% of the water related fatalities at Raystown, but are usually the last ones to wear a life jacket.  These guys need others to look out for them and remind them they're at risk and to wear their life jacket too!

Wear It Right: Choosing and Fitting a Life Jacket

Your life may depend on a life jacket someday.  Make sure your jacket is fitted right in five simple steps!

The label will tell you:

  •  Whether the life jacket is Coast Guard approved
  • The size of the jacket
  • How the jacket can be used

Sizes run from infant to extra extra large.  Adult life jackets will not work for children until they weigh about 90 pounds.  Children's life jackets should have a loop on the collar and a strap between the legs.

Check that there are no broken parts and no mold or rips in the fabric.
Fasten up all buckels, zippers and straps.  Adjust straps so that the jacket fits snugly.
  • Lift the shoulders of the life jacket
  • Make sure it does not slip above the chin or ears
  • It should feel snug, yet comfortable.  A properly fitted life jacket keeps your head and shoulders above water.  You will be able to swim with it too.
A lifejacket only works if it's worn.  Take the time to be prepared.  Make sure you have and wear the right life jacket before you go out in the water.

Life Jacket FAQ

Frequently asked questions and information that may surprise you about life jackets.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission requirements for life jackets states:

  • All boats must have a USCG-approved wearable (Type I,II,III or V) life jacket on board for each person.
  • Life jackets must be the appropriate size for the person intended.
  • Boats 16 feet and over must have a throwable device (Type IV) on board.  Canoes and kayaks, regardless of lenght, are not required to carry a throwable device.
  • A throwable device may not be used as a subsitute for a wearable device.
  • Wearable-type life jackets must be "readily accessible."  This means they should be stowed where they can be easily reached or in the open, ready for wear.  Type IV (throwables) must be "immediately available," which means that the PFD shall be within arm's reach of the operator or passenger while the boat is operated.  A PFD that is sealed in its original packaging is not readily accessible or immediately available.
  • All life jackets must be in good and servicable condition and legibly marked showing the USCG approval number.  This means the PFD must be functional, free of tears or defects in the material, and all buckles, straps, zippers, and other closures must be operable.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission requires:

  • Children 12 years of age and younger when underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and in all canoes and kayaks.
  • All water skiers and anyone towed behind vessels
  • Personal watercraft (PWC) operators and passengers
  • Sailboarders (windsurfers)
  • From November 1- April 30, all operators and passengers on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak.

There are many styles or "types" of life jackets and floatation devices available which suit specfic activities and regulatory requirements.  The type is will be clearly printed on the USCG label on the jacket.  These types include:

  • Type I: Off-shore (ocean) life jacket packed with extra floatation that is designed to turn an unconcious person face up.
  • Type II: Near shore (lakes and rivers) life jacket that has less floatation than an off-shore jacket making it compact.  It also is designed to turn an unconcious person face up. An example of a type II jacket would be the classic orange universal lifejacket.
  • Type III: A life jacket that is NOT designed to turn an unconcious person face-up, but will keep them afloat.  An example of a type III jacket would be a ski vest or similar device used for most water sports due to its comfort.
  • Type IV: Thowable device.  These are designed to be grasped, not worn.  An example would be a life ring.
  • Type V: Special use device that must be used in accordance with any requirements on the approval label.  These include all inflatable jackets, belts, or coats as well as other non-typical floatation devices.
Life jackets only work when they're worn.  Conventional jackets have the reputation of being bulky and uncomfortable.  For those looking to invest their money into a safety device that will actually be used- consider inflatable life jackets.  These low-profile devices are designed to inflate manually or automatically upon immersion in water.  Inflatables are Coast Guard approved (type V) for adults and children over 30 pounds and meet Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission requirements for personal floatation devices.
These items are permitted at Raystown, but are not safety devices designed to save your life.  Parents: please watch your children!
Raystown does not offer loaner life jackets.  We encourage you to visit one of the numerous merchants in the area to purchase a life jacket so that you can use it in the future at other locations.