Life Jackets 

Water can be deceiving and the current can be deadly. Statistics show that wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) can save your life and the ones you love.

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It's the Law
All vessels (including canoes and kayaks) must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) - approved Type I, II or III life jacket (PFD) for each person on the boat. In addition to that requirement, one:

  • USCG - approved Type IV (throwable) floatation device must onboard vessels 16 feet or longer. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement. 
  • Children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG - approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area. 
  • Each person onboard a personal watercraft (PWC) and anyone being towed behind a boat must wear a Type I, II, or III USCG approved life jacket  

Although the state requires children to wear a life jacket, adults are encouraged to wear one. Adults set a good example for children to always wear their life jackets well into adulthood. Remember, life jacket wear doesn’t only apply to children – anyone can drown regardless of how old they are and if they consider themselves to be a strong swimmer. 

 Life Jackets - The Choice is Yours

  1. Get and wear a U.S. Coast Guard - approved life jacket (PFD) that's properly fitted.
  2. Check the manufacturers ratings for size and weight.  
  3. Check that the style is appropriate and approved for your specific boating activity.
  4. Check to see if it works - put it on, adjust it, and test it in the water so you will know how it will feel when needed. Do the same for family members, especially children.


Types of Life Jackets


Type I - Offshore 
- Intended for those going out in open water where quick rescues may be unlikely
- Most buoyant; can turn someone who is unconscious face-up.

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Type II - Near-shore 
- Intended for calm, inland water where there is a good chance for quick rescue.

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Type III - Floatation Aids
- Intended for calm, inland water where there is a good chance of fast rescue. 
- Generally will not turn an unconscious user face up.
- Activities: fishing, hunting canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, wakeboarding and other inland water tow sports.

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Type IV - Throwable Device
- Intended to be thrown to someone overboard. 
- Of little use to unconscious or exhausted swimmers.
- Not recommended for children or nonswimmers.

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Type III & V - Inflatable Device
- Hydrostatic (inflates automatically upon immersion or when manually activated). 
- Manual (only inlfates when manually activated).
- Belt Pack (worn on our waist. Only inflates when manually activated; must be placed over head once activated. See instructions on the inflatable belt pack prior to wearing it out on the water. 
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Inflatable life jackets requires maintenance and replacing the CO2 cartridge after each use. Not allowed for use or wear by children under 16 years of age. Read the label carefully; some inflatable life jackets are not approved for certain activities. 


Life Jackets Float - You Don't! 

Watch this video for information on why it is important to wear a life jacket.


Life Jacket Loaner Stations
Washington State Parks Boating Programs provides life jackets to boaters at public boating locations throughout the state. All life jackets were purchased through a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund which is administered by the U.S. Coast Guard's Recreational Boating Safety funds. 

Life jacket loaner stations are located at marinas, near boat ramps and at various state parks. Boaters and swimmers may borrow the life jackets for the day.
 
Your local county sheriff's departments and some police departments also have life jackets to loan. If you forgot your life jacket or need an extra one for guests onboard contact them for a loaner.

For more information regarding Washington's Life Jacket Loaner Program, contact doni.Thomas@parks.wa.gov or 360.902.8832

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