Personal flotation devices (PFD) are categorized according to US Coast Guard or USCG classifications by number. As a general rule, the better performing PFD is labelled with the lower number.
- TYPE I (Off-shore Life Jackets) – As the best performing PFDs, Type I devices are best used for remote and rough waters where rescue can be slowly obtained. These devices give the best performance when it comes to floating and can save the life of an unconscious user best because of the ability of these offshore life jackets to turn one’s face up when in water.
- TYPE II (Near-shore Buoyant Vest) – These life vests are good for use in calm or inland water or locations where rescue can be attained quickly. They come in sizes for infants, children, youth, and adults. Like the Type I, the near-shore buoyant vest can also turn unconscious wearers face-up.
- TYPE III (Floatation Aid) – These devices can be used by mindful and alert users in inland water. They’re also good for use in locations where there’s a good chance to be rescued fast. With many sizes to choose from, these flotation jackets and vests are generally believed to be the most comfortable PFD to wear. They are only to be used for the activity specified on the label.
Unlike, Type I and II, the Type III PFD needs the user’s conscious effort to tilt his head back to avoid face-down on water. These devices are not meant to be used for surviving long hours in the rough seas.
Types I, II, and III are common among recreational boaters. Types IV and V, on the other hand, are buoyant cushions that have their own special uses.
- TYPE IV (Throwable Device) – These life-saving devices are thrown to someone in the water and serves as a good substitute to life jackets and vests. However, they’re not to be used for unconscious persons, children, and non-swimmers, or for long hours in rough waters.
- TYPE V (Special Use Device) – Type V PFDs are meant to be used for particular activities and special conditions. Its user must also follow the instructions specified on the device. Based on performance, they are equal to Types I, II and III.
Work vests, deck suits, boardsailing vests and hybrid PFDs belong to this variety and they offer high flotation when inflated. Those who especially work in ships and boats can wear this continuously to keep them protected as most accidents in the sea happen unexpectedly. Type V devices can also include features like hypothermia protection.
Safety is always the first thing to consider when exploring the waters. One way to keep yourself away from danger is having the right personal flotation device.