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The Coast Guard announced they are working with the Personal Flotation Device (PFD) community to revise the classification and labeling of PFDs. The Coast Guard’s removal of type coding has come about because new PFDs offered for testing and approval were unable to be classified with the current system. Their abilities exceeded many presently approved PFDs. When the revisions are completed, the hope is that the information regarding the various types will be easier to understand.

Chris Edmonston, Chairman of the National Safe Boating Council, stated; “The boating safety community believes this move by the Coast Guard will help lead the way toward more comfortable and innovative life jacket designs, help boaters stay on the right side of the law, lower cost, and save lives. The type coding unique to the United States, tended to confuse boaters, limited choices and increased the cost. Removing the coding will be the first step toward adoption of new standards that will simplify life jacket requirements for recreational boaters.”

The Coast Guard has announced the new rating system won’t be in place until 2017 but any present PFDs in use will be acceptable for, “the life of the PFD.” If you need a new PFD – buy one. Don’t wait for the review process to complete. Lives will still need to be protected.

Modern inflatable PFDs have come a long way since they were approved for recreational use in 1996. Improvements in their design and use are ongoing. A limited number of the inflatables have been approved for Type II and Type III recreational use. If you select one, you need to determine if it carries a current Coast Guard 160 approval number.

Various manufacturers, whose inflatables have been approved, provide detailed instructions for use and care and I highly recommend you thoroughly review them prior to purchasing or using one. The Coast Guard points out that it is important for consumers to register their inflatable PFDs with the manufacturer because they must have your information on file to effectively contact you in a timely manner regarding any recalls.

Because many unapproved products are beginning to flood the market, be sure to seek out those that have been tested and approved by the Coast Guard and display the 160 number on them. Many of the new styles are very comfortable and are designed for multiple use and the prices for them are coming down.

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One Response to PFD Update

  1. Ed C. says:

    I hope my recently purchased, inflatable PFDs do not become unapproved over-night.

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