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Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's)

Personal Flotation Devices
All boats must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jackets, also called personal flotation devices or PFDs. The quantity and type depends on the length of your boat and the number of people onboard and/or being towed. Follow the links below to determine how many PFDs you are required to keep onboard:

Safety Equipment Requirements
Class A
(less than 16 ft)
Class 1 (16 to less than 26ft)
Class 2 (26 to less than 40ft)
Class 3
(40 to less than 65ft)

Each PFD must be in good condition, the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, must be readily accessible! Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (boat sinking, on fire, etc.) PFDs should not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or have other dear stowed on top of them.

With nine out of 10 drownings occurring in inland waters, often within a few feet of safety and involving boats smaller than 20 feet, most drowning victims had access to a life jacket but did not wear it. The solution is simple: find life jackets right for you and your passengers, and wear them.

PFD Descriptions

TYPE I: Offshore Life Jackets
These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They are excellent for flotation and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

TYPE II: Near-Shore Vests
These vests are good for calm waters and fast rescues. Type II vests may lack the capacity to turn unconscious wearers face up.

TYPE III: Flotation Aids
These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters and fast rescues. They are not for rough waters and they will not turn a person face up. Some Type III PFDs are designed to inflate after you enter the water.

TYPE IV: Throwable Devices
These cushions or ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble.

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices
These windsurfing vests, deck suits and others are designed for specific activities, such as kayaking or water skiing. Some Type V PFDs are designed to automatically inflate when you enter the water. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be used in accordance to their label. Most labels require the device to be worn.

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PFD Requirements
All boats must carry one Type I, II, III or V USCG-approved PFD for each person onboard.

If your boat is 16 feet or longer (except canoes and kayaks), it must also have at least one of the following:

* Throwable flotation device (Type IV)
* Throwable special use device (Type V)

All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition, and legibly marked showing the USCG approval number. The PFDs must be of the proper size for the intended wearer. sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.

Children under 6 years of age must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD at all times while underway on any boat 26 feet or less in length.

Each person onboard a PWC (personal water craft), and anyone being towed behind a boat or PWC, must wear a USCG-approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not to be work on PWC or while water skiing.

Boater's Tip
Others who should wear PFDs include:

  • Children of all ages
  • Anyone boating at night
  • All persons during rough weather
  • Persons who cannot swim
  • Hunters and anglers
Text provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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