While you’re inspecting your boat and getting it ready for summer, make sure that you have a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every passenger on your boat. To make sure the life jackets fit each person, follow the simple steps below:
- Ensure it can be properly fastened and make sure all straps, buckles or zippers are secure and work properly.
- Put the life jacket on and buckle or zip it up.
- Make sure you can easily move your arms and legs and sit down while wearing it. If you can’t do these things, it is too tight and the next size up should be tried on.
- Hold your arms straight above your head while wearing the life jacket.
- Ask a friend or family member to grab the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up. If the life jacket rides up above your ears, it is too big and the straps should be tightened or the next size down should be tried on.
*If you notice that a life jacket no longer fits, but is in good shape, you can donate it to the Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Drive where it can be added to a Life Jacket Loaner Station for another boater to borrow and wear.
On top of making sure the life jacket fits properly, life jackets need to be in good, working order and free of any rips, tears, waterlogging or mildew. If a buckle or strap is torn or missing, or the life jacket fabric is ripped, the life jacket needs to be discarded. If the life jacket has some dirt or mildew on it, it can be cleaned using the tips in this post.
When the life jackets are not being used, be sure they’re cleaned with mild soap and water or rinsed with fresh water and allowed to completely dry out before being stored in a dry place.
If you don’t have a properly-fitting life jacket for every passenger or if you invite someone to come boating and don’t have a life jacket for them, don’t worry. You can always visit one of our 550+ Life Jacket Loaner Stations across the country and borrow the life jackets you need for your day out on the water. To find one near you, check out this interactive map.
As you gear up for yet another fun and successful boating season, be sure to encourage your passengers and fellow boaters to always wear their life jackets. And while you’re at it, help spread awareness by taking a selfie and sharing it on social media with the hashtag #vestfriends!