Inflatable Life Rafts

Made in Florida

FSF Staff February 17, 2012

Interested in learning more about your favorite pastime? Anglers and boaters rarely consider the tremendous effort required to design and manufacture the countless components that enhance our on-the-water experiences. Skilled craftsmen build many of these essentials right here in Florida, and we wanted to learn more about the products they specialize in. We’re confident that you’ll be fascinated with what we discover in our ongoing investigation.

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Photo: doughertyphotos.com

With enjoyable weather year-round, it is no surprise that Florida ranks as the undisputed boating capital of the world. And although it is common knowledge that life vests and signaling devices are required by the United States Coast Guard for vessels of any size, enjoyment overshadows safety and essential equipment is often ignored until it is too late. Unfortunately, accidents on the water occur more than we like to admit and situations can become gravely serious in a matter of seconds.

While technology has taken over most aspects of manufacturing, life raft construction is a process that requires skilled craftsmen with incredible attention to detail.

If you routinely fish offshore waters in search of trophy game fish you should think about outfitting your vessel with an inflatable life raft. While not required by law, it simply makes perfectly good sense. Designed to keep passengers of a sinking, burning or otherwise uninhabitable vessel safe until they can be rescued, life rafts provide essential protection and create a larger target for search and rescue crews to spot in the vast ocean. While there are numerous reputable raft manufacturers, Hollywood, Florida’s, Survival Products Inc. produces the lightest, most compact emergency life raft on the market.

Since 1970, family owned and operated Survival Products Inc. has been providing innovative and affordable emergency life rafts for the aviation and marine industries. Charles and Donna Rogers lead the way in the same warehouse they’ve occupied for 40 years. Along with their daughters and Charles’ brother, a team of highly skilled technicians with years of experience in engineering, manufacturing and servicing of survival emergency equipment make it possible for this small business to thrive. With their vision and dedication, Survival Products Inc. continues to satisfy the safety needs of both commercial and private sectors in the air and on the water.

While Survival Products Inc. is capable of creating superb life rafts with varying capacities and government approvals, no matter the final product the construction of the buoyancy tube and deck starts with heavy duty, tear-resistant neoprene coated nylon. While technology has taken over most aspects of manufacturing, life raft construction is a process that requires skilled craftsmen with incredible attention to detail. There are no shortcuts and every step along the way requires human interaction.

The specialized nylon fabrics arrive in large rolls and are stored until an order is placed (Image 1). Because integrity is critical, the materials are inspected throughout the entire process. Depending on the desired finished product a skilled craftsman selects the necessary templates to fabricate the appropriate panels and patches for the formation of the buoyancy tube, deck, canopy, valves, valises and various handles. The patterns are cut out and the placement of critical components are traced onto the material (Image 2).

From here the deck and buoyancy tubes are almost ready to be constructed, but first the fabric must be trimmed to precise specifications (Image 3). It is now time for layers of fabric to be carefully positioned. With the perfect alignment a proprietary blend of adhesive is applied and the materials are set aside to cure (Image 4 & 5). At this point the safety handles and valve assemblies are also glued into place (Image 6 & 7). While the rafts inflate with an automatic pressurized system, a manual inflation/deflation valve is also cemented to the buoyancy tube and allows users to inflate the raft with a hand pump in the event of pressure loss.

Because of their simplistic square design, the assembly only features four seams. This not only makes their products strong and light, but smaller and more compact. Even so, seams and critical joints are further reinforced for the ultimate in reliability. Once the adhesive has cured the layered materials are secure. However, before the process can continue the seams and adhesive bonds are inspected again.

While the life raft components are constructed the valises are simultaneously sewn by a master seamstress (Image 8). One is constructed for raft storage, while an additional valise is packed with essential survival equipment including a flashlight, signal flag, flares, first aid and raft repair kits, sea dye marker, signal mirrors, canopy and water rations (Image 9). While the life raft valise provides protection when not in use, it also serves as a sea anchor and automatically deploys upon raft inflation.

Most life rafts utilize CO2 inflation, but unlike competitors that utilize steel cylinders Survival Products’ life rafts feature aluminum cylinders (Image 10). While a reduction in overall weight is a given, the corrosion resistant attributes of aluminum are just as important. A high tech aluminum release valve further eliminates corrosion and the damage and deterioration of critical components. The CO2 cylinders are charged and weighed on site to ensure accurate pressurization (Image 11).

Before final assembly can commence the raft is pressure tested for 24 hours (Image 12) and the raft and valise are stenciled with the raft’s serial number, weight and occupant capacity (Image 13). The raft is then carefully folded and packed into the appropriate valise (Image 14). Once the valises are packed together they are ready to save lives around the world (Image 15 & 16). Built with stringent regulations to satisfy the needs of those who are serious about their safety equipment, Survival Products Inc. backs their life rafts with a lifetime warranty.

Choosing the proper life raft for your vessel can be a bit overwhelming, but the professionals at Survival Products will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. No matter what body of water you plan on crossing be sure to outfit yourself with the appropriate safety gear. Your life just might depend on it.

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