A life jacket loaner program is defined as any organized activity that provides life jackets for free to the public and asks that the life jackets be returned for use by others. The Sea Tow Foundation has maintained a successful life jacket loaner program since 2008 and has made more than 20,000 life jackets available to boaters via 160+ life jacket loaner stands throughout the country. Seventy of those stands were built with the grant funding in 2012. The 2012 grant funding allowed for 3,733 life jackets to be purchased from a combination of the Revere Supply Company and Sterns (part of The Coleman Company). These life jackets were distributed to Sea Tow Captains across the country in preparation for the 2012 boating season courtesy of the Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program. The Sea Tow Foundation life jackets also are used in towing and marine assistance operations, in boating safety courses and camps, at boat shows, and are provided to local marine law enforcement officers.
Nationwide, the survey data showed that there are a minimum of 44 state agencies or boating safety organizations that run a life jacket loaner program in the U.S. As of July 2013, there were at least 1,915 life jacket loaner locations in the U.S. Of those, 8 percent belong to the Sea Tow Foundation, which is impressive given that some life jacket loaner programs have been in existence for 20 or more years; whereas the Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner program has only been around for five years.
Effective and successful life jacket loaner programs follow eight best practices. These include the use of signage and advertising to help boaters find the stands, providing educational information to boaters, the quantity and type of life jackets available to be borrowed, the sizes of life jackets available to be borrowed, construction of the life jacket loaner stands, location of the life jacket loaner stands, distribution process for the life jackets, and the restocking and inspection procedures for the stands. An evaluation rubric was developed to allow state agencies and boating safety organizations to perform a self-assessment of their life jacket loaner programs based on these best practices. The Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Loaner stands consistently meet or exceed expectations as effective life jacket loaner programs.
“Regardless of the reasons boaters need to borrow them, Sea Tow Foundation Life Jackets will continue to be available for boaters and other water-sports enthusiasts to use in the 2014 boating season and beyond,” said Gail Kulp, Sea Tow Foundation Executive Director. “The Sea Tow Foundation already is hard at work on our fifth year of grant funding for the program and also has secured a number of donations to buy even more life jackets for our life jacket loaner program. We look forward to continuing our efforts to spread the word about the importance of life jacket use, and offering the life jackets themselves to back it up.”
As part of the new grant funding, the Sea Tow Foundation will be accepting applications from non-profit organizations and state boating agencies throughout the country to host a life jacket loaner program in their local area. The deadline to apply recently has been extended to November 30th.
A full copy of the grant report and the loaner stand application are available on the Sea Tow Foundation’s website (www.boatingsafety.com). You can find a listing of the 160+ Sea Tow Foundation life jacket loaner stands there as well.