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IT's AS EASY AS 1, 2, 3!

What they will learn/
What you can teach:

That just wearing a life jacket isn't enough. It has to fit properly and it needs to be buckled.

Activity and Participation:

Gather the group together and after completing the page activity "BUCKLE-UP", have them compare answers. Discrepancies in counts may come up since some of the buckles appear to be almost buckled and counted as buckled. Use this opportunity to emphasize what a secured buckle is (top of page).

Next have everyone put on their life jackets. If there aren't enough life jackets for everyone, have one half of the group put life jackets on the other half of the group. Before everyone buckles their life jacket, make sure they first zip-up and are aware of the type (usually Type III) of life jacket they are wearing. Working in pairs, have one (child A) of the pair stand behind the other (child B) and test the life jacket for proper fit. While child B puts his arms straight overhead (similar to a football referee signaling a touchdown) child A should grasp the tops of child B's arm openings and gently pull up. As shown in the illustrations of Abby on the page, excess room above the arm openings and the life jacket "riding up" over the chin and face are signs of a "bad fit." A snug fit in these areas represents a "good fit."

At this point it's a good idea to discuss the way a properly fitted life jacket works in the water by keeping the head and shoulders above water. A "bad fit" could result in the life jacket working correctly and providing flotation but the person's head and shoulders being below the water's surface.

Before proceeding to the next activity, reinforce the fact that after understanding and experiencing all the requirements for proper life jacket fit and good flotation, it still makes sense to try on your life jacket before you start the day's boating and keep it on while boating. With this demonstration it should be evident that similar to a car's seat belt, there's not enough time to buckle-up before a car crash, the same applies to being buckled-up for boating.

What you
will need:

Life jackets for each child in the group. If possible, use life jackets of different manufacturers and types. This helps familiarize everyone about differences in life jackets.

Buckle-up BONUS:

If you're fortunate enough to have a Type III inflatable life jacket, show the differences in fit and how it works. This is an opportunity to show that comfort and safety can work together. Use this bonus as an opportunity to inform the group about most state's restrictions on use of inflatable life jackets when waterskiing or operating a personal watercraft (PWC). Also inform the group that you must be 16 years or older to wear an inflatable life jacket.

Discuss the consequences of not reaching the pull cord in time while waterskiing. Parallels can be drawn to those that don't wear a life jacket but feel they could reach and put on a life jacket while in the water. Readiness means always wearing a life jacket when boating.

© 2001 National Safe Boating Council

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