Auto Inflating PFD
Hi guys – Jettie here. Well I don’t know how it is around where ya’ll live, but summer finally got here with a vengeance. The high is going to be in the mid nineties with rain every day this week. It doesn’t bother my husband a bit though. Just as soon as he gets a minute free, that boat is attached to the back of his truck and out the driveway he goes. We’ve been together a lot of years and it never used to bother me for him to go off fishing by himself cause I knew he was having a good time, but recently he had a little heart trouble and now I worry about him a little. What if something happened and he fell overboard?
I wanted him to wear a lifejacket while he was fishing but I knew that there was no way he was going to agree to wear one of those big bulky ones. He is too serious about his fishing and it would just get in the way. I can just hear him complaining now. I had seen those new auto inflatable life vests in the store and thought I might do some research and get all my ducks in a row and spring it all on him at one time. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. It seems he was having some of the same thoughts I was. I guess when you’ve been married over 40 years you start thinking alike.
Anyway, here’s some of the things I came up with that you need to know if you are considering getting a auto inflatable PFD (Personal Flotation Devise).
Auto-inflating PFDs come in several variations but they basically work the same way. A gas-tight bladder is folded into a compact shape and is covered with a durable shell. The shell is held closed with Velcro until the PFD is inflated. Attached to the bladder is an oral inflator tube and an auto-firing mechanism containing a CO2 cartridge. The vest is worn at all times by the user and may be inflated in any of three ways:
1) it will automatically inflate if the wearer enters the water,
2) it may be orally inflated by blowing into the oral inflator tube, or
3) it may be manually inflated by pulling on a “rip cord.”
The auto inflator device has a spring-loaded firing pin that punctures the high pressure CO2 cartridge. A “bobbin” in the mechanism keeps it from firing until needed. Once wet however, the bobbin (sometimes called a ‘pill’) rapidly disintegrates, tripping the firing pin. The manual “rip cord” also activates the firing pin.
If inflated by any method other than the oral inflation tube, the vest needs to be rearmed before it can be put back into service. If the manual lever (pull cord) was used, then a new CO2 cartridge and possibly an indicator pin must be installed. If the auto-inflator was used, then a new bobbin/pill must be installed as well as the CO2 bottle. Everything you need to rearm these vests are available as kits from their manufacturers.
Most auto-inflator PFDs are classified as type V devices. This means that they meet federal carriage requirements for PFDs provided that they are used as directed, and that they are worn at all times while on board. In addition, they are not approved for persons less than 16 years of age.
There are some things to consider before you switch to the Auto Inflators.
1) As opposed to conventional, inherently buoyant PFDs, these are high-tech devices. They will not provide buoyancy until they’re inflated. This imposes a higher level of responsibility on the user. They MUST be carefully inspected before each use to see that the inflator mechanism is armed and in good condition. The bladder must not leak, and the user must be familiar with its use and operation. This is a big difference from using a conventional PFD. That's also why they’re not approved for use with persons less than 16 years old.
2) They are not recommended for swift water sports (white water) or any activity where the user will probably get soaked (personal watercraft, sailboards).
3) Cold weather adversely affects the operation of these PFDs. While the CO2 cartridge will fully inflate the vest most of the year, in extremely cold temperatures the same amount of gas will not expand to the same volume, reducing the vest’s buoyancy.
4) While they are designed to auto-inflate only when immersed in water and not by rain or high humidity, the ‘pill/bobbin’ material can break down under these conditions and activate the inflator.
5) Inflatable PFDs provide no protection from hypothermia.
6) Since there is a slight delay from immersion to inflation, they are not recommended for non-swimmers.
7) An inflatable MUST be worn as the outermost layer. Never wear a coat or rain gear over these vests.
Come on by Bass Pro Shops and talk with our guys in the Marine Department and let them help you decide which PFD is best for you.