“Touchdown” test can save your life

Juneau – With National Safe Boating Week 2010 in full effect, the Coast Guard is encouraging Alaska boaters to enjoy all navigable waters while taking necessary measures to ensure safety.

Federal and State law requires one Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device for each person aboard all recreational vessels throughout Alaska. No matter what size recreational vessel, state law requires children under 13 wear a personal flotation device when in an open boat and on the deck of a boat.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death in Alaska mainly due to vessel capsizing or boaters falling overboard while not wearing a life jacket. In 2009 there were more than 10 man overboards from commercial vessels in or near Alaskan waters. None of the people were wearing life jackets. No recreational boating deaths have been reported in 2010.

“Always wear your life jackets,” said Capt. Melissa Bert, commander of Coast Guard Sector Juneau. “Alaska can both be beautiful and dangerous and wearing a life jacket can considerably raise your chances of survival and also allow more time for the Coast Guard or other help to respond.”

Ensure your life jacket is the correct size, secured properly and in good working condition. A good way to determine if your life jacket is the correct fit is by performing the life jacket “touchdown” test:

  • Put on your life jacket ensuring all buckles are fastened.
  • Raise your arms above your head like a referee signaling a touchdown.
  • Have someone pull up on the shoulders. If the life jacket stays in place, it fits. If it touches your ears, it’s too loose. Now turn your head. If it touches your chin it’s too loose.

The proper use and maintenance of life jackets can ultimately save your life.

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