Inflatable personal flotation devices (PFD) - they're comfortable to wear, so comfortable that you're happy to put it on every time you go sailing - but how do you KNOW it will inflate when you hit the water? If you haven't already, it's time to think about the maintenance and becoming a survivor not a statistic by checking your own safety gear.
Your PFD - can you trust it to inflate?
Certainly US Sailing reports that they are seeing failures as PFD's age and are being routinely worn.
1. Every inflatable has an Owner's Manual that describes a visual inspection of the inflator and the CO2 cylinder before each use. (If you do not have an Owner’s Manual for your Inflatable PFD you should get one from the manufacturer for your specific model.)
2. In addition, each inflatable should be blown up annually and leak tested overnight.
3. If it has an automatic inflator, the water-sensitive bobbin should be replaced annually as well.
4. A record of this maintenance should be marked on every inflatable.
Instructions for use in the manuals include such things as : Donning Instructions, Safety Harness Instructions, Inflation and Deflation, Care and Maintenance, Rearming Instructions, Folding Instructions, and Testing Instructions are all included too.
How to visually inspect and leak test your PFD:
To check for leaks, remove the CO2 cylinder, orally inflate the device until firm and leave overnight. The PFD should still be firm in the morning. This leakage test should be performed at the beginning of the boating season and at least every two months thereafter if you are a light user, and more often if you are a heavy user. After this test deflate, and rearm the inflator. Then fold your PFD in accordance with the folding instructions in your Owner’s Manual.
Annual Test Record:
Each inflatable device should be inflated and inspected annually. Service dates shall be marked on the floatation devices. The inflatable device may be integrated with a safety harness.
Inflatable PFD Checklist:
When preparing for an outing, ask yourself:
1. Have I checked the status of the inflator and made sure that the CO2 cylinder is not punctured? Check both before each outing.
2. Is it armed in the appropriate mode for this outing?
3. Have I checked my inflatable PFD for leaks I the last two months?
4. Do I have the right PFD for this activity?
5. How does my PFD work in the water? Have I tested it this season?
6. Do I have the right size PFD for each person (according to the label) and do they fit snugly?
7. Have I checked my other inflatable PFD’s in the same manner in which I checked my own?