Think back to your first PFD.
If you were a young ‘un in those first trips to the water, chances are you were bundled up in a foam vest; buckled in around your waist and through your legs, with a head pillow snuggled right up close to your neck and ears.
Maybe it was a touch too tight, or a little too loose. Or, there wasn’t a kid’s vest to be found – so your family made do with what they had, popping you in a PFD that was as close to fitting as possible.
With more families headed to local waterways to introduce their kids to marine adventures, the need for kids-specific vests, and the insight into why kid’s PFDs need to be on kid’s bodies, is becoming more necessary than ever.
Crafting solutions for kids to hang out with their friends and families while staying safe has been a part of the Mustang Survival DNA from the beginning. And, it’s been a journey; learning what works, what doesn’t and what makes helping kids stay afloat such a unique puzzle.
While the intricacies of youth flotation pose their own challenges, there’s another, more pressing one: getting kids into vests in the first place—and making them as accessible as possible—in an effort to keep them safe when they’re in, on, or near the water.
The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR)—a volunteer rescue organization that supports the Canadian Coast Guard for over 40 years—has taken on that mission of making vests, and the adventures they inspire, accessible and safe. Specifically, since 2002, when they implemented the Kids Don’t Float program in 6 communities.
Started in Homer, Alaska in 1996, the Kids Don’t Float program was initiated in response to the state’s high rate of child and youth drowning.
Which is why the program stood out to the RCMSAR; because of its alignment with their mission to save lives on water. And, the purposeful intent of keeping kids safe.
Their work spans an array of areas aimed at lessening the risk of accidents, injuries or death in marine environments.
‘Whatever we can do to lessen the likelihood and need for Search And Rescue, and for the safety and betterment of the public in the communities we’re located in.’ Ralph Mohrmon, Director of Readiness for the RCMSAR shares. ‘Like pleasure craft safety checks—where we’re ensuring vessel owners have the required regulatory safety equipment on their vessels—to conducting the Kids Don’t Float program, and beyond.’
Here’s how it works:
Through grants, government funding or community fundraising, a Kids Don’t Float board gets erected at the mouth of a waterway, entrance to a dock, or congregating area near a lake or body of water.
The boards host kid’s PFDs that are a complimentary ‘rental’ intended for families to use for their day trips on the water. Meaning whether you arrived with a vest that didn’t end up fitting your child, needed an extra, or simply didn’t have one suited for kids, your child can be safely suited up in a PFD built specifically for them.
The boards are often a product of a community rallying together; seeing the power and purpose of the board and getting active and find ways to bring the program to their waterways. Creative solutions to funding and building the board mean working to share costs by bringing in local municipalities, harbour authorities, residents, and local businesses.
A new ‘fleet’ of PFDs are deployed each season. Sometimes the number dwindles mid-season, with families in need of a PFD keeping one after a day on the water. And, it’s often that board managers will find additional vests donated to the board throughout the season.
To RCMSAR, if we’ve got mutual participation where families are donating or keeping PFDs, we know the programs are working. People are keeping them, which means they’re using them. Program is effective. If people are taking them, they’re needed.
And kids PFDs are needed for kids and youth, because of the unique challenge inherent making their bodies float. They’re tiny, and uniform. Kind of like…a ball.
Whereas adults have longer legs and a different weight distribution that engineers can use to their benefit when designing PFDs.
Smiling young woman holding fresh caugh fish crouching next to two young boys smilingoys in
Kids PFDs are engineered for the ‘ball body’ – working with physics to make the best possible solution for keeping kids floating on their backs, with their heads and faces out of the water.
Which is why getting them in the right PFD for their weight really matters.
And, why programs like Kids Don’t Float, and groups like RCMSAR, are making a big difference for the confidence of parents introducing their kids to what it means to #livebeyondland.