Opinion: Safe Boating Week kicks off

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2005

One of the main themes of this year’s National Safe Boating Week, which runs from May 21-27 are life jackets and/or personal floatation devices (PFD)s and how they save lives. This is an especially good topic because even today, with all the latest equipment and a huge push by organizations promoting boating safety, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, people still doe while boating, and the vast majority are not wearing PFDs.

The 2005 National Safe Boating Week Web site (www.art4use.com/05campaign-site/lifejackets.htm) provides organizations and the media ready made public service messages which promote wearing life jackets from veteran TV actors such as John Amos, who played the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on the series &uot;The West Wing&uot; and up-and-coming race car driver Justin Labonte.

I can not tell you the number of times that I have seen boaters preparing to get underway for a day on the Nansemond River, the Chesapeake Bay or even off-shore from Virginia Beach who are wearing ill-fitting PFDs, or have provided poorly fitting PFDs for their children. One case in particular that I observed just last Sunday had a family getting underway and an gentleman was seated in the stern with a life jacket that looks like it was made for Shaq O’Neal! The jacket had to have been twice or three times as big as was required and seemed that he was having difficulty even staying &uot;in it&uot; properly.

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So how do you ensure that a life jacket, one of the most important safety equipments that you have onboard, fits correctly, not only for you, but for your guests, especially children?

While wearing a life jacket you should have enough room, especially in the arms, to do normal activities with the zipper fully zipped and all fasteners or buckles made up completely. Remember you need to have enough room to accomplish normal functions often this might require trying on several brands, ensuring first of course, that they are U.S. Coast Guard approved.

Again, from the National Safe Boating Week web site, the following is recommended:

&uot;Working in pairs, have one person (A) stand behind the other person (B), (who is trying on the life jacket), and test the life jacket for proper fit.

While person B puts his arms straight overhead (similar to a football referee signaling a touchdown) person A should grasp the tops of person B’s arm openings and gently pull up.&uot;

If you have excess room, especially around the arm opening or if the life jacket itself slides or &uot;rides up&uot; over the person’s chin and then his or her face it is a sign of a bad fit. Remember if you go into the water the life jackets purpose is providing buoyancy which keeps your head above water.

So as you get ready to purchase a life jacket remember the simple test described above. It will help you make an informed decision about a rather important boating purchase.

Until next week have a Happy National Safe Boating Week!