What is the main advantage of a type iv pfd?

For those looking to understand more about what types of PFD’s (personal floatation devices) are out there and available, I’m here to explain.

I’ll start by letting you know that there are 6 types of floatation device. And, don’t worry, I’ll go into more detail about those in this article for you.

As with any water-related activity deeper than a paddling pool, it’s necessary to have PFD’s on-hand. The USCG (United States Coast Guard) is a department of Homeland Security operating the shores. They require everybody involved in water-based activities to wear lifejackets. 

I understand when you’re out boating and there is no indication of unsafe water, you’re less likely to have a life-jacket to hand. In these scenario’s you’ll want to reach for your nearest Type !V PFD.

I’ll be talking you through the main advantage of having a Type IV PFD, letting you know it should be used alongside another type of PFD.

What are the 6 types of PFD?

I’ll begin by explaining the 6 types of PFD are and where they are typically used.  

Note: the ‘PFD rating’ relates to the number of pounds’ worth of floatation given to the wearer. The higher the better!

  • Type I – The Off-Shore Life-jacket. This jacket has the highest PFD rating of 22 and is designed to withstand long-periods in deep or remote waters.
  • Type II – The Nearshore Buoyant Vest. This vest offers a PFD rating of 15.5 for adults and is designed for close-to-shore activities where they can be seen by cost guards.
  • Type III – The Floatation Aid. This life-jacket is worn by individuals participating in sports such as water skiing. It’s PFD rating is 15.5 for adults.
  • Type IV – Throwable Devices. These are thrown towards an individual for them to grab. Their PFD rating ranges from 16.5 to 18 depending on the device.
  • Type V – Special Use Devices. Items such as deck suits, harnesses and belts are worn by water professionals. They are designed for one purpose and have PFD ratings ranging from 15 to 22.
  • Inflatable PFD’s. These are vests with a special CO2 cartridge designed to inflate when activated. These are typically seen on aircraft and have PFD ratings of 22 to 33.

For more information about the 6 types of PFD, check out ‘What is the Best Way to Check the Buoyancy of your PFD?’

Why is a Type IV PFD so different?

As mentioned, a Type IV PFD is a personal floatation device designed to be thrown into a body of water. The individual stuck in the water will grab the throwable device and hold on for buoyancy. 

Other PFD’s listed are wearable devices. Because wearable devices are not necessarily worn at the time of an event, the throwable devices provide rescuers and individuals with time to set-up a rescue mission in an emergency.

Here are some common Type IV PFD’s

  • a ring buoy
  • a horseshoe buoy
  • a seat cushion

There are many advantages to having a Type IV throwable device on board. These are why the USCG demands they are placed on all boats longer than 16-feet (except kayaks or canoes).

Here’s some advantages:

  • They are cheap
  • They don’t need to be maintained to the same extent of life-jackets
  • They bring insurance down
  • As they are not wearable, they can be used for all size and ages
  • Multiple throwable devices can be used at once
  • They buy time for a rescue mission
  • They come in many convenient shapes
  • They can have very high PFD ratings
  • The user doesn’t have to learn how to use it
  • They can be used alongside any other PFD
  • Can be used in remote, open, calm, inland, rough and choppy water

The main advantage of a Type IV PFD will depend on the situation; if there is no need for one then It would be the price, if there has been a need it could be that the user doesn’t have to learn how to use it.

However, I would argue the main advantage of a Type IV PFD would be its suitability for anyone and is always available on a boat. This means that no matter who is in danger, they have a chance of rescue.

The most-safe VS the least-safe life-jacket…

I know, it may seem like the Type IV is the most beneficial PFD, but it’s not the mostsafe – or, the least-safe for that matter. It’s important to understand which PFD’s fit these terms and why the Type IV is a good all-rounder that should be used alongside other PFD’s.

We’ll start with the most-safe PFD on the market. This is the Type I Off-Shore Lifejacket because…

  • It actively turns the wearer to face the sky, meaning even if the wearer is unconscious, they are able to breathe.
  • They have the highest PFD ratings, meaning they provide the most buoyancy to heavier individuals.
  • They do not need to have CO2 cartridges replaced.
  • They have the ability to be moulded to the wearer.
  • They are designed to withstand deep, remote and open bodies of water including the ocean.

The least-safe PFD, on the other hand, is an argued topic. Many may suggest this would be the throwable device as it is not attached to the individual. Others would say it is the inflatable device as there can be issues with the CO2 cartridge.

I believe the Type III Floatation Aid has the most disadvantages to the wearer despite being the most common life-jacket on the market. Here’s why:

  • The wearer must struggle to face the sky and they have to continuously hold their head up.
  • They are mass-produced and do not have moulding options.
  • They must be kept out of direct heat or sunlight.
  • They must be handwashed for maintenance.
  • It is not designed to withstand long period of time in the water
  • It is only designed to protect the wearer in near-shore, shallow and calm activities.

So, we know what the types of PFD are, we know which the top-rated PFD would be and what the least-rated PFD would be. We also know the main advantage of having a Type IV PFD on board even with other PFD’s available.

I hope this article has provided you with the relevant information to make safe decisions going forward. Please note, there is always a good reason for the USCG having regulations in place for Type IV PFD’s on boats.

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