Every time you take a pontoon boat out on the water you need to make sure that everyone on board is safe.  You also need to make sure that you are prepared for any safety checks by local law enforcement officials. Nothing ruins a buzz more than the coast guard pulling you over.

So what safety equipment do you need on a pontoon boat? Is there a list of things that you need?

The answer to this is yes, and whilst I am being slightly tongue in cheek about the coast guard, it is a very serious matter, even more so the safety of not just you and your passengers, but also anybody else out on the lake or water.

It’s very easy for a day’s pontooning to be ruined because you did not pay attention to the safety equipment needed on-board. As an example, do you know what you would do if one of your passengers collapsed and fell into the water, only to drown because they were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket?

Now whilst fortunately, events like this are rare; they can still happen. This is why you need to be prepared, by making sure that you have the correct safety equipment on board, before you even think about taking people out on your pontoon onto the water.

Pontoon Boat Safety: Equipment You Simply Must-Have

There are certain safety items which are normally required to be kept on every pontoon boat. You should make sure that you have these items on your craft at all times, and regularly check to see that they work, and are in good condition.

1. Valid Registration Certificate

Don’t have one? Then your pontoon boat shouldn’t even be on the water. Always be aware of what the legal regulations are in the state you are boating in (check here), as whilst this may seem like just a piece of documentation, it’s important.

Also make sure that your capacity plate is clearly visible from the helm. Not sure what one is? Find out more about capacity plate replacements here.

2. Selection of PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices)

There is absolutely no excuse for not complying with this one. Every single person who takes to the water on your pontoon boat should be wearing a PFD or life jacket that fits them correctly.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a selection of PFDs on board, so that you have ones which will fit adults and children of different shapes and sizes. You need to be able to adapt to any situation regarding a passenger on your pontoon boat. Safety is your responsibility as the captain.

3. Marine Fire Extinguisher

It’s simply not good enough to have a standard fire extinguisher on your boat; it has to be one that has been designed for marine use and one that works and has been tested. This one on Amazon has been approved by the coast guard for use on boats – the First Alert extinguisher.

Make sure that you keep check of the expiration date on the extinguisher and that it’s kept in good working condition and everyone on board knows exactly where it can be located in case of emergency – just like they should do the life jackets.

4. Audible Warning Device

Some emergencies on the water will mean you need a way in which to attract the attention of other boats. This is why you need to have a device that makes a noise, such as a whistle or a horn.

You can buy specialist marine air horn on Amazon which is really, really loud. Much louder than a whistle could ever hope to be. It’s my preferred warning device as it can be heard over loud winds, music, and rough or choppy water. Go get one, you won’t regret it.

5. Throwable PFD

Even though everyone on your boat should be wearing a PFD, it’s still essential to have the extra security of having a PFD to hand that can be thrown into the water if necessary. It does not matter which type of device you choose, as long as it’s well-maintained.

The Flowt Type IV throwable PFD is US Coast Guard approved, has webbed throw handles, and comes in multiple colors. I would opt for a bright color, as it will be visually more obvious once thrown into the water.

6. Skier Down Flag

If you partake in water sports such as skiing, tubing, or wake boarding, then you need a skier down flag to use is someone goes down in the water. This lets other boats on the water know of the situation, so they can take the necessary steps to avoid the person.

If you do not have this piece of equipment on board, any skier that goes down in the water could be in a very dangerous situation. This is a really cheap piece of pontoon boat safety equipment, and costs hardly anything to buy – they are available on Amazon.

Additional Safety Equipment I Recommend

There are some additional items of safety equipment that you should have on your pontoon boat if you want to keep everyone safe. They might not be required by the authorities as rules can differ depending on what state you live in (it’s a good idea to check your local state laws).

The following items are ones that I personally use, as pontoon boat safety is very important to me, and it should be for you too.

  • Visual signal that you need help, so that you can seek assistance if there is an emergency.
  • Navigation lights that are fully functional. You should have a red and green light to be placed in the front deck area. You should also have a white light which should be placed as high as possible on the boat.
  • Flashlight and spare batteries.
  • Anchor and line.
  • Form of emergency propulsion.
  • Fully stocked first-aid kit. It’s easy for people to have an accident on board, even if it’s only a cut hand, so you need to have a stock of first-aid items close by.
  • Tools and spare parts to fix problems while you are on the water.
  • Cell phone that has a signal.
  • Battery charger.

If you are new to pontooning, and have just started out with a pontoon boat, you need to make sure that you have all of the necessary safety equipment in place. Do this before you even consider taking to the water for the first time.

Not doing so means that you are putting your own safety at risk, as well as the safety of your passengers.

You may also find yourself in legal trouble if your safety equipment does not meet with local regulations.

You should find it relatively easy to purchase all the items you need at online stores such as Amazon. So, it should not take long before you are fully stocked and ready for your first trip.

As well as this safety equipment checklist for pontoon boats, I have also put together some additional guides which I recommend you read. Those are:

  1. 13 Essential Items You Need to Be Always Prepared
  2. Must Have Items to Carry on Your Pontoon to Be Legal

Please Note: The advice given in this guide and checklist is my own personal opinion. Information found on Pontoonopedia should not be taken as legal or safety advice. You need to perform your own due diligence and check the law thoroughly before you take to the water.