How Do I Choose a Safe Life Jacket?

How Do I Choose a Safe Life Jacket?
When it comes to water safety, it pays to choose a safe life jacket. But what exactly makes one floatation device better than another? As it turns out, there are some simple things that separate the two.

Are Life Jackets Really Necessary?

First and foremost: live jackets are absolutely necessary! No matter your age or how skilled a swimmer you may be, it pays to have some extra protection. That’s especially true on the open water. If you are heading out on a boat, every single passenger should be wearing a life jacket. This is true for adults and children alike.

What Makes a Safe Life Jacket?

What makes one life jacket safe versus any other? The answer here is easy, but unfortunately many people are unaware of this important information. Quite simply, a safe life jacket is one that meets the rigorous testing standards of the U.S. Coast Guard. If a life jacket isn’t Coast Guard approved, then it frankly could leave the wearer in grave danger during a water emergency.

Life jackets are meant to keep your head above water and help you to remain in a position that permits proper breathing. A Coast Guard approved safe life jacket will certainly meet this requirement.

The Coast Guard recommends, and many states require, that you wear life jackets:

  • for water skiing and other towed activities, while operating personal watercraft, such as a jet ski,
  • during white water boating activities, and
  • while sailboarding (under Federal law, sailboards are not "boats").

Additionally, adults should take extra care when children are in the water. Parents should always make sure that their kids are wearing their life jackets properly. The jacket should fit snugly, since a loose life jacket could slip off.

Could I Use Floaties Instead of a Life Jacket?

Many parents ask if floaties or water-wings can be used in place of a safe life jacket. Truthfully, the answer is “NO.” Floaties can easily pop, deflate, and even slip off a child’s arms. If this occurs, it is likely that the child will panic and begin wildly flailing in the water. Sadly, this panicked state will greatly increase the child’s risk of drowning.

Both the Mayo Clinic and the CDC caution that floaties do not actually protect a child from drowning. In fact, the Mayo Clinic specifically warns against them: “Don't rely on air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes, to keep children safe.”

To make matters worse, floaties can provide parents with a false sense of security. Mom and dad may believe that their little ones are safe in the pool… but unfortunately, this is quite far from the truth. The floaties can pop at any moment, turning a relaxing day at the pool into a tragedy.

Instead, parents are advised to make the smart choice: choose a reliable and safe life jacket that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved. At first this may seem like overkill, but a proper floatation device can – and has – saved many lives.

To take water safety a step further, it always pays to combine layers of safety. In addition to a safe life jacket, parents should practice active supervision. Finally, swimming lessons can offer children a powerful weapon in case the worst happens on the water.