Safety alerts on life jackets

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2005

One of the best services that the U.S. Coast Guard provides the boating public, that doesn’t get the kind of publicity it should, are the Safety Alerts.

Provided by the Office of Investigations and Analysis at Coast Guard Headquarters (, the alerts provide important information on a wide range of safety issues. Boaters should take the opportunity, especially after reading this column, to go to this Web site and check out all different safety alerts and see if any apply to equipment you may have on your boat.

After reading the different alerts issued in 2005 one caught my eye, and it is the one that

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I want to focus on. It was published on May 24 and was entitled, &uot;Non-Serviceable and Substandard Type

I Unicellular Plastic Foam Life Preservers.&uot; This is an important one for my readers for many reasons.

The key points of the safety alert are as follows directly quoting the alert: &uot;Recently during several annual inspections of small passenger vessels Coast Guard Marine Inspectors discovered a number of problems with the Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) manufactured by Atlantic-Pacific Manufacturing Co (APCO). APCO formerly produced various types of PFDs including several sizes of unicellular plastic foam life preserves and is currently out of business. PFDs from other manufactures could have similar problems.

A close inspection revealed:

-varying body strap lengths, sometimes less than 54&uot; from the tip of the snap hook to the tip of

the D-ring, resulting in a very tight fitting adult sized PFD on an average sized crewmember

-non-resilient and brittle condition of the PFD flotation foam

-differences in foam volumes and physical size for the same model of PFD

ninaccurate markings, incorrect Q-spec numbers (106.055), misspelled words, and incorrect narratives.&uot;

The safety alert went on to report that, &uot;Additionally, follow-up buoyancy tests of suspect PFDs performed by the Marine Inspectors resulted in numerous failures. All PFDs that had failed were condemned and each exhibited noticeable shrinkage and compression. Many of these PFDs have been in use since the 1970’s and many have reached the end of their service life.&uot;

The safety alert concluded by providing owner/operators with some potential indicators that a problem exists with this specific Type 1 PFD, such as those mentioned above including: compression, loss of resiliency, and shrinkage. The same alert provides specific models and manufacture numbers for the suspect PFDs.

Readers, if you believe you have one of these types of PFDs, PLEASE check the Coast Guard web site and look at the entire Safety Alert.

Next week we will look at another safety issue….until then….BOAT SAFE, and BOAT SMART.

Joe DiRenzo, a Suffolk resident, is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Reach him at