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Personal Safety

Who should wear a Personnel Flotation Device? Everyone.

PFD Fashion Show

Cardinal Rules of PFDs

1. Wear your PFD.
2. Make sure your PFD fits.
3. Don't sit on your PFD--take care of it, it could save your life.
4. Wear your PFD!

Testing your PFD

1. Put the PFD around your neck

2. Tie the neck straps in a bow

3. Buckle the waist belt

4. Pull the waist belt until it is snug (ideally, the PFD should be adjustable so that you can get a snug, but comfortable fit, over a range of clothing, from a T-shirt to a pile sweater to a parka or rain-coat). 

5. Try some paddling motions to make sure the PFD doesn't chafe or impair your range of motion.

6. Kneel or sit, and with your arms raised over your head, ask a friend to lift the top of PFD as high as it will go. If the neck tie of the PFD goes above your chin, or if your ears and neck slip though the head opening, it’s too loose. The PFD should not move freely or slip off.

7. Readjust the PFD as needed and repeat step 6


The United States Coast Guard approves different types of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) for different activities—check the label on your PFD to make sure it is approved for what you are planning to do with it. Also make sure the PFD is the right size for the person who will be using it (they are rated by weight), and if is for a child make sure you use a PFD that is specially designed for children.

Type I: Off shore life jackets provide the most buoyancy. These are very thick and will keep you face-up when unconscious for long periods of time. They are used in large lakes (like Lake Superior) and the ocean.

Type II: Near shore life jackets are used by boaters on lakes like Clinton and rivers like the Kaw where you can expect a fairly quick rescue. They will float you face up if you are unconscious. They are the ones you typically see in use in Kansas.

Type III: Floatation Aids are vests or jackets that are designed for active sports like fishing or kayaking on inland waters like Clinton Lake or the Kaw. They are worn all the time and are designed to be comfortable and to move easily when you are paddling. They are not designed to float you face up if you are unconscious or in rough water.

Type IV: Throwable Floatation Devices can be a circular ring or a cushion and are not meant to be worn; they are thrown to people in the water to help them stay afloat during a rescue.

Type V: Special Use or Hybrid Devices. These are for specific activities and may do things like provide protection from hypothermia in cold water. The Type V PFD shown in the photo is inflatable, and will automatically inflate when it gets wet. Types I-III also come in inflatable models—inflatable vests should not be used for activities that could result in high speeds and the possibility of a high impact since they can be damaged and may not inflate fast enough to save an unconscious person. Inflatable PFDs should also not be worn by children. 


River Safety Lesson Plan

Teachers, educators and parents can incorporate lessons on river safety using the lesson plans and materials provided in the Kids 4 the Kaw, the River Safety Lesson Plan developed for the Teens 4 the Kaw or High School. We encourage everyone who works with youth to help us make sure that we all have a safe and fun time at the river.