How to Wear a Life Vest

How to Wear a Life Vest
Water accidents are never expected, and they happen fast. Wearing a life vest or jacket, also known as a personal flotation device or PFD, may save your life. There's really no excuse not to wear one: If you're worried about stifling in the heat under a foam life vest, you can purchase a compact life vest that inflates automatically once you hit the water.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Check the placard inside the life vest to make sure that it's rated to float as much or more than you weigh.
Step 2
Open the front of the life vest and put your arms through it, just as you would a normal vest. If there is a collar to help keep your head afloat, this should hang down the back of the vest.
Step 3
Zip the front of the life vest. On some vests---especially the inflatable sort---you may have to fasten a plastic buckle in addition to or instead of the zipper. Some vests may also have hook-and-loop closures that close over the zipper to protect it, but you won't find life vests held together by only hook-and-loop closures.
Step 4
Make sure that the life vest fits properly: It should be snug but not so tight that it's uncomfortable. Have someone place their hands underneath the shoulders of the vest and tug straight up while you stand with your arms out to the side. If the vest lifts up so high that your chin or ears slip through, it is too loose.
Step 5
Tighten the vest if necessary. A life vest will usually adjust in one of two ways: Either there will be laces or buckles at each side that can be loosened or tightened and then tied to keep them from slipping, not unlike a corset, or if your life vest closes with a plastic buckle you may be able to tighten it by pulling on the webbing strap that comes out of the buckle or lifting the buckle and letting the webbing slide through to loosen it.
Step 6
Check again to make sure the life vest fits properly. If you can't adjust it sufficiently for a proper fit---or if the life vest doesn't adjust at all---you will need to replace it with a vest of the proper size.

Tips & Warnings

 
If you wear a self-inflating life vest, check the carbon dioxide canister that triggers the inflation every season and as directed by the manufacturer. If the canister is scratched, doesn't weigh the amount noted on it or is otherwise not in good condition, it should be replaced. Use caution if you wear a self-inflating life vest while kayaking or pursuing other sports that may subject you to heavy spray. The spray might trigger the life vest to suddenly inflate.
 
If you wear a self-inflating life vest, check the carbon dioxide canister that triggers the inflation every season and as directed by the manufacturer. If the canister is scratched, doesn't weigh the amount noted on it or is otherwise not in good condition, it should be replaced.
 
Use caution if you wear a self-inflating life vest while kayaking or pursuing other sports that may subject you to heavy spray. The spray might trigger the life vest to suddenly inflate.
 
Remember that an adult life vest is not sufficient protection for a child; test the fit of a life vest on your child just as you would test it on yourself.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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