Summer 2015 – Water Safety in Alaska

Chanda Simon, Miss WEIO. Photo by Elena Carlo

Chanda Simon, Miss WEIO. Photo by Elena Carlo

by Angela Gonzalez, Communications Coordinator

Now that summer is here, Alaskans are getting out on the lakes, streams, rivers and other waterways. Miss World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO) Chanda Simon shared a very timely message about water safety.

“I see a lot of people towing their boats around, and I would like to remind everyone about their water safety; please keep yourselves safe and wear a PFD (personal flotation device)! Here in Fairbanks, there are  life vests for kids that you can borrow at some of the boat landings! Kids Don’t Float, and neither do adults or pets so remember, if you are going to be in or around water on a boat, skidoo, kayak, or anything, wear your life vest! The vest is there to help protect your life and the life of kids. Have a safe summer out on the water!”

PFD Basics

How Many PFDs Do I Need?

You must have at least one, U.S. Coast Guard approved, wearable PFD for each person onboard, and it must be the appropriate size. If your boat is 16 feet or longer (generally excluding canoes and kayaks but check your state’s regulations) you must also have one throwable device (Type IV PFD).

What kind of PFD do I need?

PFDs are categorized by Type, i.e. Type I, II, III, IV or V. Types I, II and III are commonly worn by recreational boaters, while Type IVs are throwable devices such as life rings and buoyant cushions. Type Vs are for special uses, and will be discussed later. When considering a Type I, II or III – remember that, generally, the lower the number the better the performance (a Type I is better than a Type II).

Types I, II or III may be inherently buoyant, that is, they will float without action by the wearer, or they may be inflatable (oral and manual inflation at a minimum), or a combination of both (hybrid). Currently, all USCG approved inflatable PFDs are Type IIIs with manual inflation.

Personal Floating Device (PFDs) Types

Personal Floating Device (PFDs) Types

Select a PFD based upon your planned activities and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Visit the for a detailed chart showing advantages and disadvantages of the five types of flotation devices.

Enjoy the waterways and remember to wear a float coat. The Alaska Boating Safety Program has many more life-saving tips at:

Facts from Alaska Boating Safety Program:

  • In the last 10 years, 105 more Alaskans died in recreational boating accidents than died in commercial fishing.
  • 9 of 10 of those who died were adult males
  • 5 of 6 experience a capsize or fall overboard into Alaska’s cold water
  • 3 of 4 involve powerboats
  • Half are in salt water, half in fresh water
  • 9 of 10 involve boats under 26 feet in length
Youth boating in Kodiak. Photo by Amy Modig

Youth boating in Kodiak. Photo by Amy Modig

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