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Life jackets are necessary equipment for all boats and required by the U.S. Coast Guard. Your boat insurance company will expect you to comply with the U.S. Coast Guard regulations.
United Marine Underwriters has listed many types of life jackets which are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Not necessarily the large, uncomfortable, orange life vests which were required by parents to be worn while on outings in the family boat.
Times have changed and so have life jackets.
What has not changed is the message– a life jacket cannot save your life if you are not wearing it.
Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard reveal that 70% of all drowning deaths occur from a boating incident and 85% of those victims – were not wearing their life vest.
Many people tend to think they will have time to grab their life jackets in case of an emergency or worse they will have time to not only grab theirs but grab their children’s as well. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Life jackets are made to buy time for a rescue and to keep an unconscious or conscious person's head up and out of the water till help can get to them.
Remember, it only takes 60 seconds for an adult to drown and 20 seconds for a child to drown.
The U.S. Coast Guard has compiled a list of required boating safety equipment, which they have determined to be the minimum equipment and operating standards as deemed necessary under federal laws.
This list is the minimum federal USCG required list and some states may have added additional items/safety equipment, so be sure to check your states boating laws and requirements.
Life Jackets and personal floatation devices – The USCG requires one approved – Type I, II, III, or V, life jacket or life vest per person on board. If the vessel is 16 feet or more in length, one throwable floatation device – Type IV – like a ring is required as well. Life jackets must be easily accessible, in good working condition, and fit the individual it is intended for properly. Each state has their own regulations regarding children's life jackets.
Fire Extinguishers –For boats 26 feet and less, it is required to have at least one B-1 type Coast Guard-approved hand portable fire extinguisher. Again, that is the minimum. Boats 26 to 40 feet, two B-1 type or one of the B-2 type USCG approved extinguishers are required. Boats that are 40 to 65 feet in length should have three B-1 extinguishers or one B-1 and one B-2 USCG approved fire extinguisher. And boats over 65 feet need one to eight (depending on the weight of the vessel) B-2 along with a fixed system in the machinery space. Of course you can choose to have a fixed system in any size boat and the handheld portable extinguishers requirements for boating safety would be less.
Bells and Whistles –Any boat under 40 feet should have an efficient sound producing device such as a horn or whistle, and boats over 40 feet are required to carry a bell and whistle. The mouth of the bell must be at least 7.87 inches in diameter and the whistle should be able to be heard at least ½ nautical mile.
Visual Distress Signals – While in Coastal Waters, the Great Lakes, and any U.S. owned boats which are on the high seas, if less than 16 feet in length must carry three approved night signals. Boats over 16 feet must have three day and three night signals on board.
Ventilation –Boats built before 1980, must have at least two ventilation ducts which are capable of efficiently ventilating every closed compartment that contains a gasoline engine and/or tank, except those having permanently installed tanks which vent outside of the boat and which contain no unprotected electrical devices. Engine compartments containing a gasoline engine with a cranking motor are required to have power-operated exhaust blowers controllable from the instrument panel.
Boats built after 1980 are required to have at least two ventilation ducts fitted with cowls (or their equivalent) for the purpose of efficiently and properly ventilating the bilges of every closed engine and fuel tank compartment using gasoline as fuel or other fuels having a flashpoint of 110 degrees or less.
Backfire Flame Arrestor – Not required for outboard motors. All others are required to have one approved device on each carburetor of all gas engines.