HKQ Kids

Life Vest or Flotation Device?

Listen to the HKQ Kids' Radio spot:

We may think that a life vest and a flotation device are synonymous. But the truth is, they are two very different things.

Having the proper vest based on an individual’s ability to swim or not to swim, as well as the physical conditions such as shallow water vs. an ocean can literally be a lifesaver.

Life jackets have more buoyancy than personal flotation devices and are designed to turn the unconscious from face down to face up, allowing them to breathe. Most of the buoyancy materials are in the front of the vest.

Life jackets should be red, orange or yellow with a whistle attached, making it easier to find in an emergency situation. For young children and non-swimmers, a life jacket is usually your best choice. Be sure the life jacket is the correct size and is safety-certified.

A personal flotation device has less buoyancy with the buoyancy materials in the back of the vest. It makes them less bulky and allows for greater movement. However, they are not life-saving devices. Personal flotation devices are usually used for recreational watersports and those that are experienced swimmers. Flotation devices can turn you face down.

Please note, water wings, pool floats and rings are NOT safety devices in any way.

A few extra safety tips:

  • Be sure to check the label on either vest/device to make sure it is a proper fit based on height and weight.
  • Make sure the device is properly fastened.
  • Hold your hands up over your head with the device/vest on. Make sure the jacket doesn’t pull up over your chin or face. Ask someone to grasp the top of the arm openings and pull up gently to test it.
  • Always try the vest in shallow water, under close supervision first.

For a comprehensive guide to choosing life jackets or personal flotation devices, click here.

For additional safety tips go to, find us on Facebook and Instagram.