Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Boating All Require Safety Gear

By Banner Health

Whether you are paddle boarding, kayaking, boating or water skiing, there’s one thing you always need to wear: a life jacket, say Banner Health safety experts.

“You should have them on anytime that you are in the water,’’ says Tracey Fejt (pronounced fate), RN, trauma injury prevention coordinator at Banner Desert Medical Center and Cardon Children’s Medical Center.

“You never know when something is going to happen, and you need that life jacket.’’

Arizona state law requires that all children 12 years of age and younger must wear an approved life jacket while on a boat, being towed by a boat or on a personal watercraft.

Despite state laws and widespread publicity, few people wear life jackets, Fejt says. In 2017, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that they were only being used by 17 percent of those surveyed.

“That’s a real low number and that’s why we are seeing the number of deaths that we do,’’ Fejt says.

Fejt gives these pointers when it comes to selecting life jackets for you and your family:

What to look for: “The most important thing to look for is that is U.S. Coast Guard approved.’’ Also, inside the jacket, there is a weight listed: select a vest that has your appropriate weight.

What kind: There are vest versions of life jackets and inflatable versions as well. “You have to be a little more cautious with the inflatable kind because you have to be conscious to be able to pull them and inflate yourself,’’ Fejt says. “The vests are always going to be ready to go.’’

Best for kids?: There are life vests for kids and there are also products known as “puddle jumpers’’. Some puddle jumpers are not U.S. Coast Guard rated, so avoid using those. Fejt strongly advises against using “water wings’’ or “arm floaties’’ which are not U.S. Coast Guard rated. Water wings and floaties can easily pop off kids’ arms and give parents a false sense of security, Fejt says.

When to wear them: Always wear life jackets when you are on the water, Fejt says. Keep them buckled up and ready to protect you. “We have crashes all the time unfortunately, we have had several adults who have died at our lakes already this year so having a life jacket can really can make a huge difference.’’