The Five Different Flotation Devices
various personal flotation devices hung on rack

When you’re around any body of water, the number one thing that you need to be mindful of is safety. Nothing is more important than making sure that everyone can efficiently swim and that there is an adequate number of personal flotation devices (PFDs) nearby in the event of an emergency.

But what exactly is a personal floating device (PFD)?

A PFD is a piece of life-saving equipment intended to give you more buoyancy to help you stay afloat in water in case you go overboard. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard and most state boating laws require all passengers to have an approved PFD when in a boat.

When used correctly, a personal emergency floatation device can save lives. It can also make swimming easier and less demanding, allow non-swimmers to safely enter the water, and offer assistance in activities like water skiing.

That said, did you know that PFDs aren’t all the same? In fact, there are five different types of floatation devices, all required to fit the U.S. Coast Guard’s guidelines. Aqua Leisure Pools and Spas is here to break them down.

Type I – Offshore Life Jacket

A type I PFD is the most buoyant of the five types of floatation devices, offering roughly 22 lbs of buoyancy in the adult size and 11 lbs of buoyancy in the child size. They are known for being bulky and uncomfortable but very reliable in all types of water such as rough, remote, or calm.

These floating devices can turn an unconscious person face-up while in the water, perfect for when the rescue is delayed. A type I PFD can be worn in the water for the longest amount of time.

Usually, Type I PFDs are used as abandon-ship life jackets for commercial vessels, as well as vessels carrying passengers for hire. However, being large and awkward, they may be difficult to swim in.

Type II – Inland Life Vest

The second type of PFD is best suited for calmer waters as it is not as reliable as a type I when it comes to turning an unconscious swimmer face-up.

These floating devices offer less floatation (15.5 lbs for adults), but are more comfortable than a type I yet bulkier than a type III. This water floatation device is more suited to situations where there is a good chance for a fast rescue.

Both type II and type III are available in buoyant or inflatable styles. Inflatable Type II water floatation devices provide up to 22.5 lbs of floatation and are significantly more buoyant than their foam counterparts.

Type III – Flotation Aid

The most comfortable of all, the third type of emergency floatation device gives you the most freedom in terms of movement. They are commonly used for recreational activities like canoeing, kayaking, sailing, water skiing, fishing, and personal watercraft operations.

Like Type IIs, these floating devices also have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 lbs. They are also meant for calmer waters and require the wearer to be able to lift and hold their head out of the water as this type will not turn the wearer face-up. They are also not meant for long-term; rescue while wearing this type needs to be swift.

Even more comfortable than the other two types of floatation devices, a Type III should complement your activity and allow for movement.

Type IV – Flotation Device

Unlike the other PFDs, type IV is not worn on the body. Instead, it is typically a throwable life ring used when someone has fallen into the water without a PFD. Their buoyancy ranges between 16.5-18 lbs.

It is not meant for unconscious people or children and should never be worn. It is simply to keep a conscious person afloat as they are swimming to safety or pulled out of the water. If you’re on a boat, this type of PFD must be present and within arms reach if the boat is over a certain size. Throw this emergency floatation device to the conscious swimmer and ask them to pull themselves on top of it.

Note that you must never sit on a Type IV floating device, as this might destroy the foam. Also, Type IVs are the least functional choice when it comes to paddling as it does not attach to the body.

Type V – Special Use PFD

Lastly, we have type V floating devices. These PFDs, often referred to as ‘special use devices’, are designed for specific activities such as water rafting, water skiing, or kayaking/canoeing. These emergency floatation devices can be classified as type I, II, or III, depending on the activity and are often created for different climates.

These floating devices are appropriate for certain activities, so it’s best to check the approval condition on the label before you bring them aboard. Their buoyancy ranges from 15.5 to 22 lbs when inflated. And if that wasn’t enough, these water floatation devices are the least bulky of all types and great for continuous wear.

Stay Safe with Aqua Leisure Pools and Spas

Hanging out and playing in the water is all fun and games until tragedy strikes. Stay safe by keeping an emergency flotation device within arm’s reach while enjoying your swimming pool from Aqua Leisure.

Remember, different floating devices serve different purposes, so you must find out which one is most suited to your needs. Don’t hesitate to talk to a qualified professional if you’re unsure where to begin. They’ll use their expertise to guide you in the right direction and help you navigate the different types of floatation devices!

For more aquatic safety devices, pool chemicals, or even a new pool, contact our skilled pool professionals today!

Our in-ground pools, above-ground pools, spas, and swim spas are designed to offer the most relaxing and refreshing in-water experience. Additionally, our non-chlorine E-Z pool chemicals are an all-in-one product that meets all of your pool cleaning needs. When you think of backyard swimming, think Aqua Leisure!