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What is The Main Advantage of a Type IV PFD?

Safety is of the utmost importance when participating in watersports. When most people think about safety while on a boating, kayaking or canoeing adventure, they think about life jackets or life vests which is not surprising as these are one of the most popular types of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs). But there is another very important type of PFDs, type IV PFDs, that can help you stay afloat. This article focuses on the main advantage of type IV PFDs.

The main advantage of a Type IV PFD is that you don’t have to wear it like you would wear a life jacket or vest. Instead, type IV PFDs are designed to be tossed or thrown to people in need. They can also be used by anyone regardless of age, height, or weight. Should someone fall overboard, a Type IV PFD can be thrown by anyone to save them.

This is just a quick overview of the benefits of a Type IV PFD. I’ll still be talking in detail about Type IV PFDs, the different types, their main advantages, how to use them, and also how to maintain them. There’s also no harm in taking a look at other types of PFDs, right?

By the time you finish this article, you are going to learn all you need to know about Type IV PFDs thereby increasing your knowledge about how to keep yourself and your companions safe on a boating trip or when participating in a watersport.

What is a Type IV PFD?

As I said earlier, a Type IV PFD is a non-wearable type of PFDs. It’s designed to be thrown to people in need and can be used without any restrictions based on age, size, height, and weight. However, Type IV PFDs are not designed to replace regular life vests/jackets but they come in handy in emergency situations where someone falls overboard.

The main function of Type IV PFDs is to keep your afloat should you find yourself in the water for any reason. While falling overboard is the most common reason why people find themselves in the water unintentionally, boat failure is another reason someone might need a Type IV PFD.

It is the US Coast Guard that gave the “Type IV’ designation to throwable floatation devices designed to be tossed/thrown to rescue anyone in the water from drowning instead of being worn like a life jacket.

The materials used to manufacture Type IV PFDs are those that have inherent buoyancy and are capable of providing extra flotation to anyone in need. The aim is to keep the person, sometimes pets afloat so that their head is above the water. That way, they won’t drown before they are helped out of the water.

What Are The Different Kinds of Type IV PFDs?

There are different kinds of Type IV PFDs and the ones I’ll be talking about below are the most popular kinds which have also been approved for use by the US Coast Guard.

Ring Buoys

This is the most popular type of Type IV PFDs and can be found on almost every boat. As the name implies, they are shaped like a ring or a donut. Whichever one works for you. Also, they come in bright colors (usually red or orange or a combination of the two) so they are easy to see and the person in need can hold onto the side of the ring or wear the ring over their heads and arms to stay afloat.

Ring buoys are also used along marinas, docks, and even swimming pools. You would most likely have come across ring buoys if you are the type that frequents swimming pools.

I was pleased to learn that modern ring buoys can come equipped with lights. This is a very thoughtful feature as activating the lights at night will come in handy during night rescues.

Buoyant Cushions

Unlike ring buoys, buoyant buoys are square-shaped and look like a couch, sofa, or even a seat cushion. The square shape provides more surface area for the person in need to lie on (actually placed under the chest) and stays afloat as he/she awaits rescue.

There are also two straps on buoyant cushions that the user can hold on to percent it from floating away.

Horseshoe Buoys

Aptly named for their shape which looks a lot like a horseshoe. The material used to manufacture horseshoe buoys is usually a cell plastic core that is coated/covered with a vinyl-coated cover.

While white and yellow are the most common colors of horseshoe buoys, they can also come in different colors.

What Are The Main Advantages of a Type IV PFD?

There are several advantages of a Type IV PFD, some of which are discussed below:

No Size Restrictions: Anyone can use a Type IV PFD regardless of gender, age, size, weight, and height. Also, Type IV PFDs don’t have any specific design that makes them fit for certain people, like say women’s life jackets. The user just has to grab onto the Type IV PFD or wear it over his/her head and arms as appropriate.

Note that having Type IV PFDs on both doesn’t mean the people on a boat shouldn’t wear life jackets. Instead, Type IV PFDs should be used as support to wearable PFDs

Toss and Tug: It’s common to see ropes being attached to Type IV PFDs like ring buoys. So when the PFD is thrown at a person in need, the rope also goes along with it. This way, the user can be tugged by the people on board as he/she holds on to the Type IV PFD.

This method will make rescuing people a lot easier and the rescuer won’t also have to get into the water. Note that ropes do not usually come with Type IV PFDs and you’ll have to buy ropes separately if you intend to have them attached to the Type IV PFDs.

Location Indicator: When someone falls overboard, the people onboard will quickly throw any Type IV PFD to where the person is last seen or his exact location. The location of the victim is determined when throwing the Type IV PFD overboard and the boat operator can then use this location to maneuver the scent to set up a rescue.

Current and waves could sweep this indicator away, especially in open or rough waters. But then, the boat operator can always be used to course of the ways to figure out where the victim may have been swept.

Easy to Use: Type IV PFDs are easy to use. All you need is to grab them as quickly as you can and throw them toward the person in need.

Portable and Lightweight: Type IV PFDs are lightweight and won’t bog you down in the water. Also, it provides the users with more mobility as they can grab any part that’s closest to them as they like.

Versatile: Can be used on different types of water – rivers, lakes, harbors, swimming pools, and so on.

There are certain restrictions to the use of Type IV PFDs. One such restriction is that they are not to be thrown at non-swimmers and unconscious individuals. This set of people won’t be able to grab the Type IV PFD and this renders the PFD useless. This is why it’s still important for people on a boat to wear life jackets/vests

What is the main advantage of a Type IV PFD - Guide

Rules and Regulations for Using a Type IV PFD

There are rules and regulations guiding the use of Type IV PFDs. Below are some of such rules.
1. Any vessel that’s 16 feet or longer is required to have at least a type of Type IV onboard. The type of Type IV PFD onboard is not specified by this regulation so you can have any of the three popular and Coast Guard approved PFD onboard.

Smaller boats should also try to have one Type IV PFD on board in preparation for overboard emergencies.

2. Kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized watercraft are not required to carry a Type IV PFD. It doesn’t matter whether your kayak or canoe is up to 16 feet or even longer.

The main reason for this is that often, these non-motorized vessels do not have a lot of space, and having a Type IV PFD onboard isn’t exactly space-efficient. That said, although a large buoy might be difficult to take on a kayak, a buoyant cushion may be an option. In any case, you should always wear life jackets and other wearable PFDs when on kayaks and similar non-motorized vessels.

3. Any Type IV PFD onboard should be approved by the US Coast Guard and be readily accessible. It’s not to be hidden away in lockers, cockpits, or any other inaccessible areas. Instead, it should be where everyone can see. The visible part of the deck is a great place to keep Type IV PFDs.

4. A Type IV PFD must be a bright color. The reason for this is for it to be spotted easily in case of emergencies. That’s why manufacturers use bright colors like red, orange, and yellow for Type IV PFDs. Another advantage of using bright colors is that it will make the Type IV PFD visible from a good distance.

Orange is the international distress color and provides a good contrast to both the sky and the sea.

5. A Type IV PFD is required to have s buoyancy of at least 16.5 pounds. This will ensure that the PFD will be able to support and keep adults afloat.

6. A grab-line must be attached to the Type IV PFD. The purpose of having a grab line of Type IV PFDs is to be able to pull the victim out without anyone having to get into the water, swim towards the victim, and then swim back to the vessel with the victim.

The recommended length is at least four times the diameter of the PFD

7. A Type IV PFD is NOT a replacement for a life jacket. I think I’ve talked about this before but emphasis must still be placed on it. Type IV PFDs should be complementary to life jackets and not replace them.

Proper Maintenance of a Type IV PFD

Proper maintenance of a Type IV PFD is key to their durability and also performing optimally when using them. Below are steps you can take to properly maintain a Type IV PFD.
1. Keep all Type IV PFDs away from sunlight when they are not in use. Nothing deteriorates Type IV PFDs faster than prolonged exposure to sunlight. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are especially damaging to the materials used to manufacture Type IV PFDs.

There are several weatherproof housings for Type IV PFDs on the market that protect Type IV PFDs from the elements while also making it easy for them to be mounted on deck. Win-win.

2. Thoroughly wash the PFD after being deployed in saltwater. The reason for this is to prevent the growth of algae as well as bad odor over time.

3. Carry out routine checks for tears, rips, and holes.

4. Dry the Type IV PFD thoroughly before storing it. It’s very important you ensure that Type IV PFDs are dry before storage.

What Are The Other Types of PFDs?

PFDs are divided into two broad categories according to the US Coast Guard. These two broad categories are based on floatation capabilities and functionality. Below are the two general classifications of PFDs.

Wearables This includes Types I, II, III, and V PFDs and they include different types of life jackets or vests.

Throwables Only Type IV belongs in this category.

Final Thoughts

Type IV PFDs are not to be overlooked when engaging in any activity on the water. They offer many advantages and while not being a replacement for a life jacket, the two are complementary.

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