From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ring buoy with a light on a cruise ship
A lifebelt floating on water

A lifebuoy is a life-saving buoy designed to be thrown to a person in water, to provide buoyancy and prevent drowning.[1] Some modern lifebuoys are fitted with one or more seawater-activated lights, to aid rescue at night.

Other names[edit]

Other names for "lifebuoy" include safety wheel, lifebelt, water wheely, ring buoy, life ring,[2] lifering, lifesaver, life donut, life preserver, Perry buoy, or Kisbee ring.[3] The "Kisbee ring", sometimes "kisby ring" or "kisbie ring", is thought to be named after inventor Thomas Kisbee (1792–1877), a British naval officer. [4]


The lifebuoy is usually ring- or horseshoe-shaped personal flotation device with a connecting line allowing the casualty to be pulled to the rescuer in a boat. They are carried by ships and are also located beside bodies of water that have the depth or potential to drown someone. They are often subjected to vandalism which, since the unavailability of lifebuoys could lead to death, may be punished by fines (up to £5,000 in the United Kingdom) or imprisonment.

The UK Royal Life Saving Society considers lifebuoys unsuitable for use in swimming pools because throwing one into a busy pool could injure the casualty or other pool users. In these locations, lifebuoys have been superseded by devices such as the torpedo buoy.[5]

In the United States, Coast Guard approved lifebuoys are considered Type IV personal flotation devices. At least one Type IV PFD is required on all vessels 26 feet or more in length.[6]

Leonardo da Vinci sketched a concept for a safety wheel, as well as for buoyant shoes and balancing sticks for walking on water.[7]

Gallery of types of lifebuoys[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Personal flotation device – Equipment to help the wearer keep afloat in water
  • Pool float, also known as swimming float – Device used to keep someone above water
  • Swim ring


  1. ^ "The Kisbee Ring". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  2. ^ "Boat Life Rings, Ring Buoys". Retrieved 20 February 2023.
  3. ^ "The Kisbee Ring". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  4. ^ "The Kisbee Ring". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  5. ^ The Lifeguard. IQL UK Ltd. ISBN 1905008120.
  6. ^ "46 CFR 25.25-5 Life Preservers and Other Lifesaving Equipment".
  7. ^ Wallace, Robert (1972) [1966]. The World of Leonardo: 1452–1519. New York: Time-Life Books. pp. 106–07.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Lifebuoys at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of life jacket at Wiktionary