It has come to the attention of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division that immediate special considerations need to be made when purchasing and using inflatable personal flotation devices (PFDs).
LDWF agents have seen an increasing number of problems with some inflatable PFDs being presented and worn during boating safety inspections. If you have purchased and use inflatable PFDs, the LDWF Enforcement Division is strongly urging citizens to pay immediate attention to their PFDs.
The following items should be considered not only to ensure the legal use of these PFDs but also because many of them will not properly function without proper installation of components.
1) Any PFD intended for use MUST BE approved by the United Sates Coast Guard (USCG). If the PFD does not have a label clearly stating “USCG Approved”, it does not meet acceptability requirements and thusly does not count toward the number of required PFDs.
2) All PFDs MUST BE properly sized for the intended wearer. (Indicated by chest size and weight of the wearer on the information panel of the PFD). They must also be worn in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions which could include age restrictions.
3) Some inflatable PFDs are being sold that do not come with a CO2 cartridge attached or included. While these PFDs are being likely sold at a reduced price, they either come with the cartridge included but not attached and properly armed or the cartridge is sold separately. Appropriate cartridges must be purchased additionally and installed by the customer prior to use.
4) Some inflatables must be inflated by breath through a tube or straw apparatus. These PFDs could be largely ineffective and have little or no inherent buoyancy. LDWF Suggests use of inherently buoyant PFDs or a PFD properly equipped with an automatic inflation mechanism. If an unconscious or injured boater enters the water with a faulty PFD they may not be able to initiate inflation.
5) Reading the instructions for that PFD is crucial due to different methods of deployment. Wearers must be made aware of deployment procedures and should never assume that an inflatable will automatically inflate.
6) Federal Law restricts use of USCG Approved Inflatable PFDs to persons older than 16 years of age.
LDWF strongly urges our boaters to check their inflatable PFDs immediately. Some cartridges expire and/or lose charge. Regular inspection before each use is optimal. Further, it is an intelligent practice to have aboard enough inherently buoyant PFDs in the event that inflatables are unintentionally inflated.