Life jackets save lives. It is important to choose a life jacket that you will wear, that meets the needs of your boating activity, and that works for the boating environment it will be exposed to. Knowing the facts about the different types of life jackets (also referred to as PFDs - Personal Flotation Devices) can help you decide which is appropriate for you. ODNR strongly encourages all Vermilion, Ohio boaters to wear life jackets, whether or not the law requires it.
Life jackets must be: Coast Guard approved; in good and serviceable condition; and the appropriate size for the intended user.
There should be a wearable life jacket (that fits!) for every person onboard the boat. The type and size of your boat determines if a throwable PFD is required.
Ohio law REQUIRES life jackets to be worn: while riding a personal watercraft (PWC or jet ski); while waterskiing or being towed on a similar device; by children less than 10 years of age on any vessel less than 18 feet in length.
It is particularly important to WEAR a life jacket: when the boater cannot swim or is a weak swimmer; when boating alone; when the water is dangerously cold (the months of October through May in Ohio); during rough water/waves and severe weather conditions; when boating at night; in emergency situations; in swift and fast current.
There are three basic kinds of flotation used in life jackets:
Inherently Buoyant (primarily foam): Adult, Youth, Child, and Infant sizes; For swimmers & non-swimmers; Wearable and throwable styles; Some designed for water sports.
Inflatable: The most compact; Sizes only for adults; Only recommended for swimmers; Wearable styles only; Some with the best in-water performance.
Hybrid (foam & inflation): Reliable; Adult, Youth, and Child sizes; For swimmers & non-swimmers; Wearable styles only; Some designed for water sports.
Regardless of type, all life jackets must meet these U.S. Coast Guard requirements: Life jackets must have a "U.S. Coast Guard Approved" label with approval number listed; Boats less than 16 feet in length (including canoes and kayaks of any length) must be equipped with wearable PFDs for each person on board; Each PFD must be the appropriate size for the person who wears it. Size, weight ranges, and recommended uses are listed on the label; All straps, buckles, zippers and stitching on a life jacket must be intact and the fabric should be in good condition; Life jackets must be readily accessible to occupants of a boat. They should NOT be stored in sealed packages or in a locked or closed storage area.