Loaner life jackets available in Biloxi to help keep people safe on the water

Updated: May. 23, 2019 at 10:43 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - With the long Memorial Day weekend approaching, a lot of people will be out on the water boating. One Coast organization is hoping to keep more people safe by loaning life jackets out to those who need them.

A loaner stand filled with life jackets was installed Thursday morning at Biloxi Small Craft Harbor courtesy of the Sea Tow Foundation. The life-saving tool has about 20 life jackets on it.

Sitting right next to the boat launch, the jackets are available for anyone to use. Whether a boater is short one jacket or needs one for a child, the foundation said they are welcome to borrow one.

“Throughout the boating communities across the United States, we see so many fatalities,” explained Chris Ward with Sea Tow Foundation. “And a lot of them has to do with not wearing a life jacket. So with the Sea Tow Foundation, we’re able to put these life jackets and loaner stands out all over the United States.”

These are the Coast Guard regulations regarding the usage of life jackets. Kids under 12 have to wear them all the time while the boat is underway. Adults do not. But some adults choose to wear them all the time, including boater Charles Bennett.

“If you’re out here on the water, even on a good day, you can get an errant wave, lose your footing, slip, hit your head, fall overboard, get washed out on a wave wash with that boat passing you by,” Bennett said.

For many though, you err on the side of caution, according to Charter Boat Captain Leo Dodd.

“Whenever there is lightning starting to crack around or whenever I’m going to have to go at higher speeds than normal to try and run from a squall, I tell people to get their life jackets on and just be prepared," Dodd said.

And for those who don’t use them Bennett has some good advice. “PFD’s are made to be worn, not to be looked at.”

The new life jacket loaner station is in Biloxi, but Gulfport has had one at the harbor there for the past year. According to Sea Tow, they see people out on the water all the time wearing their life jackets.

If you have life jackets you no longer use, you can donate them to the Sea Tow Foundation. Just give the Biloxi Sea Tow office a call at (228) 374-1092 and someone will pick them up.

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