U.S. Coastguard requirements for boat safety kits include life jackets and personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, bells and whistles and visual distress signals. Several other items are not required but are considered to be a wise addition to boat safety kits such as a first aid kit, a VHF radio, a toolkit, oars and paddles, and extra water and gas. Some states have additional safety kit requirements for watercraft so boaters should always contact their local authority before boating.
The USCG requires that for each person on board the boat there must be one coastguard approved Type I, II, III or V life jacket. Boats over 16-feet in length must also have one Type IV throwable flotation device as well. Specific regulations regarding children's life jackets are governed by individual states.
At least one coastguard approved B-1 type portable fire extinguisher must be on all boats 26-feet or less in length. Boats 26 to 40-feet must have two B-1s or one B-2 type while watercraft 40 to 65-feet need three B-1 extinguishers or one B-1 and one B-2. Requirements for boats over 65-feet vary from one to eight B-1s and at least one B-2 depending on the boat's gross weight, but all boats of this length must also have a fixed extinguishing system in the engine compartment.
Boats under 40-feet must have a horn or whistle while those over that length must have a whistle or bell that can be heard for at least 1/2 nautical mile. Three approved night signal lights are required for boats under 16-feet, and longer watercraft must have three day signals and three night signals.