143035_DBW Course_r3

Chapter 1 X Personal Safety

SAFETY EQUIPMENT You must have safety equipment to operate any boat or vessel safely. Some safety equipment is required by law, while other equipment is strongly recommended. In this chapter, we will cover the most important piece of equipment for personal safety—the personal flotation device (PFD), which most often means a life jacket. In Chapters 2, 3, and 4, we will cover equipment for general boating safety and for specific vessels. Life Jackets The most important piece of equipment for safe boating and general water safety is a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket which can be a throwable or wearable device. Most boating deaths happen when people don’t wear life jackets and drown. Boat operators must be alert to changing boating condi tions and should tell all passengers to wear their life jackets, especially in dangerous conditions—such as heavy boat traffic, severe weather or danger ous water conditions. Today’s life jackets are colorful, comfortable and easy to wear. Wearing a life jacket is important, no matter how well you swim or operate a boat. You never know when your boat may overturn or when you may fall overboard. Once you are in the water, it is very difficult for even the most athletic and coordinated individuals to put on a life jacket while trying to stay afloat. When using a life jacket, make sure it fits well and is well maintained so it works properly. A life jacket should keep you afloat until help comes—so make sure it’s the right one for your weight and chest size. To choose the correct life jacket: ƒ Check the type of boating you will do. ƒ Check the type of activities you will do. ƒ Check the clothing you will most likely wear. ƒ Check for Coast Guard-approved use instructions on the label. To make sure that you have chosen the right life jacket for yourself: ƒ Check for a snug fit. Adjust straps and buckles to ensure a proper fit that does not restrict your breathing. If someone lifts your life jacket by the shoulder straps, the jacket should not cover your ears. Readjust the straps and buckles, and if it still doesn’t pass the lift test, try a different size. ƒ Check how well your life jacket keeps you afloat by relaxing on your back in safe, shallow water and tilting your head back. To stay safe, your properly fitted life jacket should keep your chin and mouth out of the water, and allow you to breathe easily. If your life jacket doesn’t turn you face up in the water, you may want to replace it with one that does.


The clothing you are wearing and the items you may be carrying will affect how well your life jacket keeps you afloat.


Every person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) and any person being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket for those activities. (For exceptions, see Water Skiing. )

Photo courtesy of the National Safe Boating Council


California Course for Safe Boating

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