Here’s a grim statistic for you. In 2017, the Coast Guard’s annual report revealed that there were 658 deaths due to recreational boating accidents. Of these deaths, 76% drowned and 84% were not wearing life jackets. Inflatable life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices have been around for years.
Indeed, the first ever life jacket on record dates back to 1805. They were quite primitive at the time with cotton jerseys that had wooden blocks sewn to them. British sailors were known to wear these at the Battle of Trafalgar. They might have provided a certain level of buoyancy but they were almost definitely uncomfortable. 50 years later, Britain’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution began to use a type of vest with corks. These can be seen in photographs of people who survived the Titanic. Let’s look at some more interesting facts about inflatable life jackets.
The First Inflatable Life Jacket
This was developed in the 1930s by the US Navy. They realised it was important to have a life preserver that was compact. The inflatable life jacket was the perfect solution. The vest had a large air bladder that would lie flat against the chest. After being inflated, the bladder would increase to roughly the size of a little dog. The device was able to ensure that the person wearing it remained face up in the water. After the success seen with this device, the Army Air Corps and Marines quickly began to use them as well.
The device was actually nicknamed Mae West. Once inflated, it gave the user an aesthetic not unlike a rather prominent Hollywood actress.
Inflatable Life Jackets Were Fashionable
It’s true, there was a time when wearing an inflatable life jacket was seen as a rather trendy fashion statement. They were worn by water skiers throughout the 1970s in America. You can still see them in old movies today. They were attractive because of their bright colorful designs and of course, the fact that they were completely affordable. The foam was shiny and glossy, ensuring that they made a statement when you were gliding through the water.
The Operations Of An Inflatable Life Jacket
You might be wondering how the life jacket you wear works. Well, most inflatable life jackets these days are self-inflating. This means that the device has a triggering mechanism and that could be a hydrostatic activator. This is linked to a CO2 cartridge which is built into the device. The CO2 cartridge means the jacket will automatically inflate once it hits the water. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to be conscious of the life jacket to save you. If you hit your head jumping over the side of a boat or the waves knock you unconscious, the life jacket will bring you to the surface facing upwards. Everything could go wrong, but as long as you’re wearing your life jacket, you could still survive.
They’re Super Light And Affordable
The life jackets that are available to purchase today are completely affordable and lightweight. In fact, many people forget they are even wearing one. That’s important because it means that you can wear your life jacket all the time and never feel like it’s weighing you down or impacting your level of mobility. Instead, you’ll only really notice you’re wearing a life jacket and then you’ll be glad it’s there. There are all different types and styles of life jackets but inflatables are generally considered to be the best. These provide you the maximum level of buoyancy and are the type favored by professionals in the coast guard.
How Many Do You Need?
According to the Coast Guard each craft must have a certain number of life jackets on board at all times. It is required that children thirteen years and younger wear a life jacket unless they are below deck. There needs to be a life jacket for every person on board the boat. It doesn’t matter what type of life jacket you have as long as it is fully approved. You should always make sure that you adhere to standards and regulations when kitting out your boat with the right safety devices. This isn’t just about making sure that you are operating on the waters legally. It could ultimately save your life and everyone on board.
We hope this sheds a little more light on inflatable life jackets, why they’re important and what you need to know. If you ever run into trouble, you’ll be glad you’re wearing yours.