Coast Guard Provides Inflatable Life Jacket Tips


Early this September, the U.S. Coast Guard released a safety alert reminding boaters to routinely maintain, service and inspect inflatable life jackets. Unknown bladder leaks, fabric degradation or an improperly installed CO2 cylinder can all prevent a life jacket from inflating properly — especially dangerous in emergency scenarios.

The Coast Guard alert included a short guide on life jacket inspection, as shown below: 

Each voyage, prior to getting underway:
a. If there is a service indicator check it to ensure it is GREEN. If the service indicator is RED the mechanism
has been fired or is incorrectly fitted.
b. Check for visible signs of wear or damage by ensuring that there are no rips, tears or holes; that the seams
are securely sewn; and that the fabric, straps and hardware are still strong.
c. For auto-inflating life jackets, ensure all auto components are armed and not expired. Following the
manufacturer’s instructions, reveal the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Check that the CO2 cylinder is
firmly secured. Examine it for rust or corrosion. If you remove the CO2 cylinder for inspection, be sure to
carefully replace it without over-tightening.
d. Repack the lifejacket as per manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely
to be caught when being worn.

Periodic checks as recommended by the manufacturer or when in doubt:
a. Inflate the bladder using the oral tube and leave it overnight in a room with a constant temperature. If the
bladder loses pressure, take the lifejacket to an authorized service center for further tests. Do not attempt to
repair a life jacket yourself. If there is no obvious loss of pressure, deflate the life jacket by turning the cap of
the inflation tube upside down and pressing it into the inflation tube. Gently squeeze the inflatable life jacket
until all air has been expelled. To avoid damage do not wring or twist the life jacket.
b. Repack the lifejacket as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Boaters should always defer to manufacturer instructions. To find more safety tips, visit