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What is a buoyancy aid?

The new Canadian standard is based on the international ISO standard, which uses the term buoyancy aid. In Canada, this is usually referred to as a personal flotation device (PFD).

What does the Canadian version of the ISO standard include and where does the Level 50 fit in?

The Canadian standard includes 5 performance levels (Level 50, 70, 100, 150 and 275) to provide boaters with buoyancy aid options depending on the type of  activity. The Level 50 has the lowest amount of buoyancy (will not keep your mouth as far above water as other currently approved PFDs do) and is, for example, appropriate for activities where boaters may otherwise choose not to wear any protection from drowning.

Inflatable PFDs are currently only approved for people 16 years and older. Does the new standard address inflatable PFDs differently than previous standards?

Yes. The new standard requires all inflatable devices for youth to automatically inflate when immersed. It includes young people as subjects for approval testing, as well as new labelling and sizing requirements.

Why consider letting people younger than 16 years old use inflatable PFDs?

Many parents require their young children to wear a lifejacket or PFD when they are boating. Given the choice as teenagers, they may decide to stop wearing a PFD. An inflatable PFD gives them an option that distinguishes them from the foam PFDs that younger children use.

Why would there be a concern with lowering the age limit of inflatable PFDs if they are lighter, cooler to wear, and have more buoyancy than other inflated foam PFDs?

Inflatable PFDs use a mechanism that senses water to release gas from a cylinder into a ‘bladder’.  The ‘bladder’ then inflates and you have buoyancy. To avoid equipment failure, these devices need to be regularly inspected and maintained. Though there are backup systems in place, the wearer needs to be able to react quickly in the water to make use of them. There is concern that younger wearers may not maintain the equipment or will not be able to respond appropriately if there are problems in the water with their inflatable PFD.

What is an electronic visual distress signal device (eVDSD)?

An eVDSD is a hand held non-pyrotechnic marine signalling device that is being considered as an alternative to a pyrotechnic signal flare.

Why is there a need for an alternative to conventional pyrotechnic signal flares?

Electronic visual distress signals do not burn with an extreme heat that might cause a fire and injury. Pyrotechnic visual signals also expire after 4 years and are difficult for many boaters to safely dispose of. With an eVDSD, boaters can practice how to use them in an enclosed location where it will not cause false alarms. This will allow them to be more prepared in cases where they are in distress.

Are there any performance areas where eVDSD do not work as well as pyrotechnic visual signals?

eVDSD do not burn as brightly as pyrotechnics and are limited to handheld devices. Some pyrotechnic signals can be seen from much greater distances. Although the eVDSD signal colour is similar to the internationally known SOS distress signal, they still may not be as easy to see against background lighting. Also, until they are used more often, some boaters may not recognize them as distress signals.