Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) Information

Personal flotation devices (PFD) are wearable or throwable flotation devices used to keep a person afloat in water. They are used on all recreational, commercial and military watercraft as well as on aircraft and by workers who are working around or above water. PFDs are classified into commercial or recreational PFD. Commercial PFDs are all Type I PFD while recreational PFDs are broken down to four different types.

Types

The different types of PFDs have different buoyancy minimums which determine the proper use for each PFD.

Type I / Off-Shore Life Jacket (Commercial & Recreational)

Type I PFDs are used in all water conditions including open seas, rough seas, and remote locations where rescue will be lengthy and are on all vessels carrying passengers for hire. Type I PFDs will turn an unconscious person face up.

Type II – Near-Shore Buoyant Vests

Type II PFDs are for general boating activities in calm inland waters where rescue is fast. Type II will turn an unconscious person face up.

Type III – Flotation Aids

Type III PFDs are for general boating activities as well as specialized activities which include water skiing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and other water activates. This type of PFD is good for calm inland waters where fast rescue is possible. Type III PFDs will not turn an unconscious person face up.

Type IV - Ring Buoys / Boat Cushions

Type IV PFDs are throwable devices that are designed to be used in emergencies and are supplemented by wearable personal floatation devices.

Type V – Special Use Devices

Type V PFDs are for use in special conditions including Hybrid Inflatable PFDs, Canoe/Kayak Vest, Boardsailing Vests, Deck Suits, Work Vests for Commercial Vessels, Commercial Whitewater Vests, Man-Overboard Rescue Devices and Law Enforcement Flotation Devices.

Buoyancy Ratings

Type

Minimum Adult Buoyancy

in Pounds (Newtons)

Image

I - Inflatable

33.0 (150)

Personal flotation devices via  Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association

I - Buoyant Foam or Kapok

22.0 (100)

II - Inflatable

33.0 (150)

Personal flotation devices via  Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association

II - Buoyant Foam or Kapok

15.5 (70)

III - Inflatable

22.0 (100)

Personal flotation devices via Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association

III - Buoyant Foam

15.5 (70)

IV - Ring Buoys

16.5 (75)

Personal flotation devices via Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association

IV - Boat Cushions

18.0 (82)

V - Hybrid Inflatables

22.0 (100) - Fully inflated

7.5 (34) - Deflated

Personal flotation devices via Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association

V - Special Use Device - Inflatable

22.0 to 34.0 (100 to 155)

V - Special Use Device - Buoyant Foam

15.5 to 22.0 (70 to 100)

Resources

USCG PFD Categories

PDF Selection, Use, Wear & Care

Images credit:

USCG PFD Categories



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