Safety Around Water: Life Jacket Selection & Sizing Video
Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 4:57 a.m. PT
Originally published: April 29, 2020, at 7:44 a.m. PT
Saving the life of you or the child you’re swimming with can come down to simply using the appropriate life-saving device in and around water. Any time you or your family are boating or near open bodies of water, you should be wearing a properly fitting Coast Guard-approved floatation device. These jackets have been tested extensively to make sure they perform as expected and are designed to aid in swimming and save a swimmer who is in trouble.
All About Life Jackets
Watch these videos, in English and in Spanish, to learn more about life jackets and then read more tips below.
5 Tips for Choosing a Water Safety Device
Often, we see families using water safety devices and personal flotation devices (PFDs) that could put a swimmer in more danger. We know it can be overwhelming to choose the correct water safety device, so here are 5 tips to keep in mind before purchasing a water safety device for you or a loved one:
1. Check to make sure the device is Coast Guard-approved.
You always want to check the inside of a life jacket or vest for the Coast Guard seal stating it’s an approved device. Be aware that there are many PFDs that look like Coast Guard-approved life jackets and vests, but those look-alike vests are missing the Coast Guard-approved messaging on its label. Be sure to check before you get in or around water!
2. Properly fit jackets to ensure swimmer safety.
If a life jacket is too small, it might not provide enough support for the swimmer in trouble. If the life jacket is too big, it can throw the swimmer off balance or rise up and trap the swimmer’s head, preventing sight or restricting breath. There are many great resources online that will help you properly fit a life jacket, like this infographic from the Boat U.S. Foundation.
3. Avoid air-filled floatation devices.
Air-filled water safety devices can easily lose air or slide off a swimmer’s arm, and they don’t aid in the forward motion of the swimmer. Stay clear of swimsuits with built-in inner tubes or floatation pads. These can affect the swimmer's balance and push the swimmer into an unsafe position.
4. Make picking out a water safety device fun.
Picking out a water safety device that works for you doesn’t have to be tedious or boring. You can make it fun! One of our favorite Coast Guard-approved floatation devices is the Puddle Jumper. They are Coast Guard-approved under two categories, bright, fun, and cute! The Puddle Jumper clips in the back and allows the swimmer to use their arms and enjoy the water.
5. Don’t rely solely on water safety devices for protecting swimmers.
It’s important to remember that any time you or your loved ones are swimming that you swim under the direct supervision of an adult, also called a Water Watcher. A Water Watcher is a responsible adult who agrees to watch the kids in the water without distractions. Remember that even Coast Guard-approved water safety devices don’t replace the need for the close supervision of swimmers.