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Not Just Another PFD Story

By Wayne Spivak, National Press Corp - National Marketing & Public Affairs Department, U.S.C.G. Auxiliary

"Just an old fashioned love song playing on the radio" from the song "Old Fashioned Love Song"(words and lyrics by Paul Williams) sounds just like every story you read about Personal Flotation Devices, also known as PFD's and Life Jackets. "You'll swear you've heard it before as it slowly rambles on and on", how you should wear your PFD.

So, this story will catch an edge, and won't be "Just an old fashioned love song" but will hopefully be "Coming down in three part harmony." And those three parts are Why and When; When and Where; and lastly Who, Why, When and Where.

Why and When

Why should you wear your PFD? Because it's the law? Because it can save your life?

Unfortunately, unless you are a child under 13, and not in the cabin, there is no requirement to wear a PFD.

Fortunately, it can save your life. In the latest available Boating Accident Statistics – 2000 (COMDTPUB P16754.14), the Coast Guard logged 701 fatalities. "Five hundred and nineteen (519) boaters drowned in 2000... Life jackets could have saved the lives of approximately 445 boaters who drowned. In 2000, approximately eight out of every 10 victims in fatal boating accidents were not wearing life jackets<."

The Why, in my book provides a good reason to wear your PFD. The When is also easy! When you get on your boat. When the boat leaves its slip or the dock. When conditions are such, that you as a passenger or the pilot become nervous. When the weather conditions change for the worse. When you just would feel safer!

When and Where

Our second partner in the three-part harmony is when and where. Where do you keep your PFD's? (Where is extremely important. It could mean the difference between life and death, and if you don't want to be that dramatic, how about the difference from some time unconvinced or a ticket issued by the Coast Guard.

Why life and death? Should tragedy strike, there is limited time in which to act, and if you have to go and start finding where your PFD's are, then you've probably wasted precious time. A few years back, an amateur videographer caught a boat sinking in Florida. Two people were wearing PFD's, several others, including the skipper weren't. Those without died. The boat went down in less than 30 seconds!

Federal law requires one PFD for each passenger on a vessel. In addition, these PFD's must be readily accessible! The Coast Guard does not consider PFD's still in the manufacturer's packaging as readably accessible. In addition, PFD's sitting on the bottom of a compartment, with all sorts of nautical doodads on top of it, are also not considered to be accessible. If your PFD's aren't readably accessible, as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, you don't have any.

So, if the Coast Guard stops you for a safety check and you don't have the required PFD's, you're going to get cited!

So when law enforcement stops you, if you are wearing your PFD's, wow, that's terrific! Otherwise, where they are located can be a lifesaver to you and a time saver as well!

Who, Why, When and Where

Now this is a mouthful. And the answers are so simple.

Who: You, and every one else on your boat.

Why: Because it's the right thing to do!

When: When you walk onto your vessel.

Where: Need more information about boating and safety? Why not contact your local United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla and take a safe boating course! They can be contacted via the Internet at: http://www.cgaux.org.

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