Types of Life Jackets or Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
TYPE I: Offshore Life Jacket
These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take a while. They are excellent for flotation and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.
TYPE II: Near-Shore Vest
These vests are good for calm waters and fast rescues. Type II vests may lack the capacity to turn unconscious wearers face up
TYPE III: Flotation Aid
These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters and fast rescues. They are not for rough waters since they will not turn a person face up. This type of life jacket (personal flotation device, or PFD) is generally used for water sports.
TYPE IV: Throwable Device
These cushions or ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. They are not for long hours in rough waters, non-swimmers or the unconscious.
TYPE V: Special Use Device
These windsurfing vests, deck suits, hybrid life jackets and others are designed for specific activities, such as kayaking or water skiing, and usually must be worn to be accessible. These windsurfing vests, deck suits, hybrid life jackets and others are designed for specific activities, such as kayaking or water skiing, and usually must be worn to be accessible. To be acceptable, Type V life jackets must be used in accordance with their label.
All life jackets (personal flotation devices, or PFDs) must be:
U. S. Coast Guard-approved, which means clearly marked with the USCG approval number
In good and serviceable condition
Readily accessible, which means you are able to put the life jacket on quickly in an emergency
Of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for life jackets is based on body weight and chest size.
All vessels, except sailboards, must have at least one USCG-approved Type I, Type II or Type III life jacket (personal flotation device, or PFD) of the proper size for each person onboard or towed.
One Type IV (throwable) USCG-approved PFD must be onboard vessels 16 feet or longer, in addition to the requirement above. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement.
Children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
Each person onboard a personal watercraft (PWC) and anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a Type I, II or III USCG-approved life jacket. Inflatable life jackets are not recommended for these activities.
A Type V life jacket may be substituted for any other type if it is specifically approved by the USCG for the activity at hand and is being worn.