Not just another PFD story
By Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
National Marketing & Public Affairs Department
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
"Just an old fashioned love song playing on the radio"
from the song "Old Fashioned Love Song" sounds just
like every story you read about Personal Flotation Devices,
also known as PFD's and Life Jackets. "You'll swear you've
heard it before as it slowly rambles on and on", how you
should wear your PFD.
So, this story will catch an edge, and won't be
"Just an old fashioned love song" but will hopefully
be "Coming down in three part harmony." And those
three parts are Why and When, When and Where, and lastly Who,
Why, When and Where.
Why and When
Why should you wear your PFD? Because it's the
law? Because is can save your life?
Unfortunately, unless you are a child under 13,
and not in the cabin, there is no requirement to wear a PFD.
Fortunately, it can save your life. In the latest
available Boating Accident Statistics - 2000 (COMDTPUB P16754.14),
the Coast Guard logged 701 fatalities. "Five hundred and
nineteen (519) boaters drowned in 2000... Life jackets could
have saved the lives of approximately 445 boaters who drowned.
In 2000, approximately eight out of every 10 victims in fatal
boating accidents were not wearing life jackets."
The Why, in my book provides a good reason to
wear your PFD. The When is also easy! When you get on your boat.
When the boat leaves its slip or the dock. When conditions are
such, that you as a passenger or the pilot become nervous. When
the weather conditions change for the worse. When you just would
When and Where
Our second partner in the three part harmony is
when and where. Where do you keep your PFD's? Where is extremely
important. It could mean the difference between life and death,
and if you don't want to be that dramatic, how bouts the difference
from some time unconvinced or a ticket issued by the Coast Guard.
Why life and death? Should tragedy strike, there
is limited time in which to act, and if you have to go and start
finding where your PFD's are, then you've probably wasted precious
time. A few years back, an amateur videographer caught a boat
sink in Florida. Two people were wearing PFD's, several others,
including the skipper weren't. Those without died. The boat
went down in less than 30 seconds!
Federal law requires one PFD for each passenger
on a vessel. In addition, these PFD's must be readily accessible!
The Coast Guard does not consider PFD's still in the manufacturer's
packaging as readably accessible. In addition, PFD's sitting
on the bottom of a compartment, with all sorts of nautical doodads
on top of it, are also not considered to be accessible. If your
PFD's aren't readably accessible, as far as the Coast Guard
is concerned, you don't have any.
So, if you're stopped for a safety check by the
Coast Guard and you don't have the required PFD's, you're gonna
So when you get stopped by law enforcement, if
you are wearing your PFD's, wow, that's terrific! Otherwise,
where they are located can be a life saver to you and a time
saver as well!
Who, Why, When and Where
Now this is a mouthful. And the answers are so