A life vest is an individual device that is designed to keep a person or animal afloat in water. On any boat or airplane traveling over water, there should be a life vest for every infant, child, and adult. There are even life vests available for dogs.
In most cases, the life vest fits over the person’s head. Each life vest is categorized as Type I, Type II, or Type III. There are also “throwable” floatation devices, such as rings, buoyant cushions, or horseshoe-type buoys, which fall under Type IV and are used to save someone who has already fallen into the water without a vest on.
A Type I or off-shore life vest is the best for waters that are open and rough. This type of vest is most often used when the waters are remote and when a rescue will be delayed or slow. The benefits of a Type I vest are that it has the best buoyancy and it will keep an unconscious user face-up in the water. The disadvantage is that it is bulky to wear and to store.
The near-shore life vest or Type II vest is best for calm waters. It is usually worn on lakes or other inland waterways and in areas where rescue will be fast. It is more comfortable and easier to store than a Type I vest. Although some vests may turn an unconscious user face-up, not all Type II vests will do so.
Even though it still looks like a life vest, the Type III vest is called a flotation aid. It is perfect for a wearer who is conscious, who is in calm waters, and in areas where rescue will be quick. It is not likely to keep a person face-up; however, it is the most comfortable of the three types.
An inflatable life vest is another option for many boaters. This type works by self-inflating when the wearer hits the water. Some brands of Type III inflatable-type vests are designed to keep the wearer face-up, making those brands a good option for those boating in calm waters. The main deterrent to the inflatable life vest is that it can pop if it strikes a fast moving or sharp object.
The most important consideration when wearing a life vest is that it must fit properly. If it is too large, the wearer can easily slip out of it. If it is too small, it will not fasten appropriately around the wearer and it will not keep the person afloat. Most vests have weight guidelines. It is essential to find one that matches the weight of the wearer, especially for children.
In airplanes, most life vests are found underneath the seat; however, in some cases, the seat cushion is the floatation device. In flights where the airplane is traveling over a large body of water, such as an ocean, flight attendants will give each set of parents an infant vest. The life vests are designed specifically for babies and should keep them afloat in the event of the water landing.
For boaters with canine companions, there are even life vests for dogs. Like their human counterparts, the vests are available in sizes ranging from extra-small to extra-large. These can be especially helpful for smaller dogs or dogs that cannot swim.