Chapter 2: Boating Safety

Inflatable Personal Flotation Devices

Inflatable personal flotation devices can be appealing because of convenience. When not deployed, they are far slimmer and less cumbersome than their non-inflatable counterparts.

Inflatable flotation devices typically come in vests or belts which are slimmer than regular personal flotation devices until the inflation cord is pulled. This causes the device to balloon up and gain buoyancy. There are Type I, II, III and V versions of these devices. So, they cover most of the same categories and uses. However, they will not float unless deployed, meaning that inflatable flotation devices are less optimal for stressful situations. For these reasons, these devices come with a set of caveats.

Anyone under the age of 16 is not approved to use an inflatable personal flotation device. The same rule applies for any person who cannot swim.

Inflatable Personal Flotation Device

These devices also require more maintenance. If severely torn or equipped with an empty CO2 cartridge, an inflatable device effectively loses all buoyancy. One needs to check frequently to ensure the device is not compromised by a major hole or tear and replace any CO2 cartridge after use. To check the integrity of the inflatable vest, inflate it manually and check back in on it, in 8-10 hours. If it has already deflated, then it is no longer suitable for use. Always refer to manufacturer recommendations for information on keeping your inflatable PFD in good condition.

Here's a quick lesson on how to use two common types of inflatable PFDs.

Inflatable Lifejacket and Belt