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Ask a Conservation Officer: What lifejackets do boaters need?

Q: I usually keep enough life jackets on my boat for the number of people I have with me. Are there specific types I need to make sure I have with?

A: Boating season is upon us, and with that are the tragic fatalities that have begun during the open water boating season due to lack of personal floatation device (PFD) use. In over 80 percent of boating death incidents, the victim was not wearing a life jacket. Here are the minimum requirements you need on your boat:

• A wearable (Type I, II or III) PFD for each person on board, sized appropriately for the person. Check the label.

• For boats 16 feet and longer, a Type IV PFD (seat-cushion style) is required to be on board and "immediately accessible," meaning not stored away under a deck. This style does not count toward the requirement for a wearable PFD, and should not be worn as one.

• There are some other types of PFDs that may take the place of the wearable life jacket: float coats, survival suits and inflatable suspender-style PFDs. If you use this type, make sure to read the label as some of them are required to be worn to count as your on-board PFD.

As always, it can't help you if you don't wear it. Wear your life jacket!

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Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.