Rescue Ready Boating in Alaska Series: Life Jackets

Jacques: “In the state of Alaska, the law requires that anybody under the age of 13, on an open boat or on the deck of a vessel, have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket on at all times.” Trooper Libbing: “All adults aboard a vessel need to have a life jacket readily accessible onboard, and so that’s going to be one life jacket per adult. But of course in Alaska, the water’s always going to be cold the best advice I can give you is to just always wear your life jacket.” Jacques: “In reality, accidents are just that, they’re accidents, they’re unexpected, and you don’t get to choose how that happens to you. It happens very fast, and there’s usually not enough time to get your life jacket on prior to you actually falling in the water. So to me, every time you go out you need to have your life jacket on, because it’s not going to do any good if it’s in the boat and they’re not in the boat.” Hanna: “What happened in our situation is a really calm wake turned into raging swells because of wind, and then we have one huge wave come over and crash into us and it made out engine completely cut off. I mean it just seemed like a split second, I turned around and the boat’s completely gone. We all had our life vests on prior to getting in the boat Whenever we hit the water, I did not have to concentrate on swimming or keeping my head above water.” Angela: “A life jacket’s definitely going to be your means of safety, it’s gonna be your number one life saver. Just in case if you get exhausted, or we’re not able to get you quickly, that life jacket will keep you afloat.” Hanna: “Your body is gonna get more tired, you’re gonna lose energy, it’s gonna start to shut down after a while I could feel my heart going really slow, and my heart starting cramping up, probably one of the scariest parts. Me wearing my life vest allowed me to save as much energy as possible and use that to continue swimming when I was able to, and I don’t think that I would be here without it.” Jacques: “So, on all life jackets, there’s a label on the inside of the life jackets. On the label it will tell you if it’s Coast Guard approved, the type of activity that it was designed for, the size of the life jacket, who’s intended to wear it. To actually wear a life jacket, it needs to fit and it needs to fit snug on a person. There are many different types of life jackets. There are off-shore and near-shore, and they’re intended for different types of uses. So you have life jackets that would be used for somebody that would be sailing, or, you know, kayaking, or rafting, using on a personal watercraft. Serviceability of a life jacket means that it’s going to work, it’s gonna fulfill its function to help float you in the water. If it’s not serviceable, it’s not gonna be able to do that and it should be replaced.” Hanna: “After we had lost my sister’s friend and my dad, it was it was very scary. Once people started passing away it was a lot more surreal. I honestly didn’t really know if any of us were gonna make it. Like, we had the water against us, we had the wind against us, we had, you know, no boat at this point and I really do think something that kept my peace of mind is knowing that I did have my life vest on, knowing that it worked, and knowing that it fit me properly.” Jacques: “As a park ranger, anytime I’m out on a vessel I always wear my life jacket. I’m also a father and I have two children and everybody that’s on our boat always wears a life jacket. It’s important that adults, they lead by example. It’s been proven that life jackets save lives and here in Alaska we need to keep that momentum up. So it’s up to us to make life jacket wearing normal in our community.”

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