Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Wear Your Life Jacket!

The July 25th "What IS It?" quiz asked you to figure out why Parks Canada locktenders have embraced a retro fashion, fanny packs.

And we have a winner! Erik Saunders, please step forward.

Erik correctly identified those nifty little fanny packs as stealth PFDs (personal flotation devices).

You may be more familiar with the term "life jacket."  But as you can see, a life-saving flotation device doesn't have to look like a coat or vest.

We Pause for This Public Service Message

PFDs save lives. In 83% of recreational boating deaths by drowning, the victim was NOT wearing a PFD.

The best PFD is . . . the one you are willing to wear. Lots of people say they don't wear a PFD because it's hot or bulky.

Parks Canada is keeping its personnel safe by 1) requiring them to wear PFDs and 2) choosing PFDs that are easy to wear: comfortable and inobtrusive. Good on ya, Parks Canada.

How Does a Fanny Pack PFD Work?

This kind of life vest is also cool and lightweight.
If you fall in the water, a CO2 cartridge fires automatically. A life vest pops ouf of the pack and inflates. Watch this video to see how it works!

(You can also inflate the PFD manually, by blowing in a tube.)

Scott  Barbara of  U.S. Power Squadron is a boating safety expert. He notes that the locktenders really need to be wearing their fanny packs in front, not in back.

When the life vest deploys, you need to pull it up over your head--which is hard to do when it's behind your back!

Try It BEFORE You Need It

Scott also recommends that, if you plan to use a fanny pack PFD, you test-drive it before you need it.  Fall into the water on purpose and practice getting the vest over your head. 

Good advice, Scott!  (You'll then have to buy a replacement CO2 cartridge, but worth it for the peace of mind.)

When I'm out on our boat's catwalk in a lock, and the boat is heaving and sloshing around in the turbulence as the lock fills, and I contemplate the narrow gap between the boat and the wall, and what might happen if I were to fall in, well, wearing a PFD sounds pretty darned good!


  1. Thanks for the shout out Cindy! I'd like to add that all inflatables have a manual inflation tube inside. If you don't want to waste your cartridge, simply undo the velcro and blow it up like a balloon.

    Generally the belt packs are only manual while the vest type inflatables can be both. The automatic ones have a small "pill" that quickly dissolves when exposed to water, that triggers a spring mechanism to snap closed, puncturing the CO2 cartridge. I also have a display model that is triggered by water pressure! Auto inflate life jackets can all be inflated manually by either blowing them up or by pulling a cord.

    If you have any of these, it is recommended that they are NOT stored on your boat, or in any damp environment, as the mechanism can trigger pre-maturely. I've heard many stories of fishermen leaving their expensive inflatables on their boats or throwing them in to non-climate controlled storage units after the season and coming back to find them inflated and useless; because the law says that in order for an inflatable life jacket to count as a life jacket, it MUST be worn!

    Inherently buoyant life jackets, on the other hand, like a ski vest or one of those bulky orange things cruise ships have, only need to be readily accessible (for adults on certain craft.) Of course as a "boating safety expert," I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to "Wear It!" every time you're on your boat regardless of the style! They float, you don't!

    Thank you, Cindy, for being a safe boater and for spreading the word!

  2. Thanks for the additional info, Scott! We can't say enough good things about our inflatable PFDs . . . they are light and cool and comfortable, so we don't mind wearing them. Real peace of mind!